England’s top Futsal referee Marc Birkett was appointed as one of the officials for the finals of the UEFA Futsal Cup 2019.
Some of Europe’s top clubs were competing at the Almaty Arena in Kazakhstan with Spanish outfits Inter FS and FC Barcelona, Lisbon-based Sporting Clube de Portugal and host team Kairat Almaty all involved
We caught up with Marc to give us more of an insight into his career as he's become one of the most respected officials in Futsal.
Marc, congratulations on the appointment, you must be delighted?
I'm obviously delighted with the appointment. To be considered for any UEFA tournament is an honour, but the inaugural Futsal Champions League Final 4 is extra special.
What was your reaction when you got the call? Was it a surprise?
When I received the call it was a surprise, but a good surprise to get! At the start of each season, you set your goals and the Final 4 was the only major finals available so it was on my list to reach. I am working within a talented group of referees within UEFA's elite category so to receive the call for the finals still came as a shock.
To receive such a high profile appointment is a testament to you undoubtedly having a great season, what have been the highlights so far?
As our game develops, the seasons become busier and this year has been busier than ever. Domestically, I have been officiating in the FA Futsal Super League which has meant a lot of miles up and down the country and overall this has gone well. Internationally has been equally busy with several friendly internationals at home and abroad, as well as the UEFA Futsal Cup main round in Slovenia and elite round in Lithuania. Both mini-tournaments went well for me with some very challenging games, especially in the elite round where I officiated the group-deciding game which was the toughest game of the season so far.
Opportunities like this don’t happen by accident, how did you get into Futsal and what has your journey been?
I have been refereeing Futsal for 15 years now and on the FIFA list for ten seasons, so it's not been overnight. Although my development has looked very different to those coming through the system now, I have had to learn the basics by being third referee or timekeeper on the early formats of the FA Futsal Cup and then progressed through the National League programmes. Internationally, I have enjoyed a career so far that has seen me officiate at the UEFA Futsal Euros on four occasions, UEFA Futsal Cup Final 4 and two FIFA World Cups with the highlight being the 2012 World Cup Final between Brazil and Spain.
So, if I’m new to refereeing and Futsal, how do I get involved and what is the pathway?
Futsal in England is growing across all age groups so there is no better time to get involved in the game. The FA's new Fast Forward with Futsal national strategy for the game means there is a clear pathway for refereeing no matter where you live. The course is one full day, supported by online learning that makes becoming a Futsal referee accessible for all ages. If you are keen to get involved, contact the referee development officer at your local County FA who will be able to provide you more details.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone thinking about getting into refereeing?
Refereeing can offer you so much in terms of development, not only the achievement of some of the prestige appointments but it helps to build your confidence, keeps you fit and active in a sport you love. There are obviously challenges along the way but through the referee network, there's plenty of support which helps to motivate you and build your resilience. I have learned from and enjoyed my refereeing career and would advise anyone to try it.