As part of #MCRForAll month, we spoke to Vincent Ray, 19, from Middlesbrough now living in Manchester on refereeing in disability football.
How did you get into refereeing disability football?
I try to referee as much as possible, as that’s how I find the best way to learn. So, when I was given the chance to referee disability football, I saw it as a great opportunity from a refereeing perspective to learn in a situation I have never been in before. On top of this it was a good moment to understand disability football - a side of the game I only had a little understanding of.
What do you enjoy most about refereeing disability football and how is it different?
I find it a very rewarding side of football. Seeing the participants get completely detached from their disabilities and fully immersed in the game is a fantastic thing to see. There’s just smiles all around for every game because everyone just loves to play the game. No arguments, no moaning just players wanting to play football.
Refereeing at grassroots level can be tough at times with players who aren’t always on your side, but from my experiences refereeing disability football is the polar opposite regarding respect. Over the recent years, at the top of the game with FIFA, UEFA and the Premier League and down to grassroots level with Manchester FA there has been successful attempts to highlight respect towards referee’s and this has undoubtedly had a massive impact refereeing at grassroots level. But there are still a few notable issues from surrounding the referee to comments aimed towards us. In disability football respect is a key part of the game and these issues are non-existent allowing players to enjoy their football as it flows fast without arguments, making the game better for everyone involved. Maybe the other forms of football can learn a thing or two from disability football.
What are the biggest challenges refereeing disability football?
Refereeing disability football doesn’t have any real challenges for me, it’s just an enjoyable experience. All the players just want to get as many touches of the ball as possible so just keep the game flowing and everyone has a smile on their faces; win, lose or draw so why wouldn’t you enjoy being involved with that?
What are you most proud of in your refereeing career so far?
I think every football fan dreams of leading their favourite team out in their home stadium, now there’s a reason I’m not a player so the next best thing for me is doing it as a referee and I got to do just that. As a Middlesbrough fan it was immense to lead out two teams in the Riverside Stadium – that was a real proud moment for me.
What are your hopes for your future in refereeing?
I’ve had two years marred by injury so as for going forward I hope to referee a full season injury free and push on from there, hopefully getting as many promotions as I can. Nothing is impossible so I’d love to see how far I can get.
For more information on how you can get involved with refereeing in leagues such as the Ability Counts league, please contact our Referee Development Officer Tom Elliot on Tom.Elliot@ManchesterFA.com.
Keep up to date with our inclusion spotlight month with #MCRforALL across our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with @Manchester_FA.