A guest blog from Stuart Macdonald in Austrailia:
Hello from Down Under,
I'm a mature aged ref (58) who took up refereeing at age 54 after 49 years of playing and regret not doing it sooner.
I've always kept lean and fit and was never good at individual sports until I found my calling late in life.
It appears I have the right temperament as even at my old age was appointed to the local 21A's and Premier League semi-finals this year.
I referee in the Sutherland Shire area of Sydney that has approx 18,000 registered players of which over 30% are women and 350 referees covering the matches.
There are 6 divisions of Over 35's and 5 divisions of over 45's along with 13 divisions of All Age just to give you an idea of how popular the sport is, participation wise here.
The weekend matches here in winter start at 7am on Saturdays and 8am on Sundays and the fields are mostly full until 4:30pm. Needless to say assistant referees can be few and far between in most matches I do as there is never enough to cover all the games so I often referee an All Age 4th division with no offside assistance.
POV Around 5 years ago we introduced a 10 minute sin bin for referee dissent and it's the best thing they have ever done. In a fiery game, yellow carding a player for dissent by word or action can quickly pull everyone into line as they think this ref means business. Personally, at international level I think its way out of control as no other sport in the world puts up with it and I believe it brings the game into disrepute.
Midweek I took up 5-a-side refereeing at a local sports center to improve my refereeing and have done over 1500 games in 3 years there. This is tough stuff as it's on a court where the ball essentially never goes out and foul identification and game management is paramount.
On my way home from a match last year a neighbour called out to me "Did you win?" not really knowing I was a ref. I called back to him "I always win, I'm a referee"
Specifically, what I meant by that was as a player you experience the ups and downs of sport, the auxiliaration of winning and the flat feeling you get after a loss.
As a referee, after 95% of matches I referee, I get the same feeling as the winners.
I am my hardest judge and after a mistake I have trouble shaking it for several minutes and this is something I plan to work on next season. Even when I get home, put my feet up and have a cold beer I look back kicking myself inside my head for not being in the right position etc for the wrong call.
I'm both physically and mentally exhausted, I know in my head I've had a great game and I've had the best seat in the house, so to speak, of a good football match, the sport I love!