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Referee Ashley Hickson-Lovence on his experience of being a Black official

It's Black History Month throughout October and today, we hear from Ashley Hickson-Lovence, a former Level 4 referee and current supply league observer with the Norfolk FA

Monday 12 Oct 2020
Ashley Hickson-Lovence leading out the teams during his time as a Level 4 referee

Hi Ashley. So, what is your heritage and background?

I was born in London but I’m from a family largely from the Caribbean, namely St. Lucia and Grenada. My grandmother on my dad’s side, who sadly passed away in 2015, was Irish, so there’s a mix there too.

What does it mean to you, being a referee of Black or dual heritage?

It meant a lot as a referee and still means a lot now as an observer. I was aware that I was often part of the minority on the various refereeing panels and pools I was a part of; more often than not, my presence as the match official at a club on a matchday was warmly welcomed but there were a few occasions where being a young Black London ref was burdened by unhelpful preconceptions about my refereeing abilities before the game had even begun.

This can only change with increased numbers of referees of colour progressing through the systems, something I know the FA are working very hard to promote.

I want to continue to play a small part if I can, in helping the next generation of up-and-coming referees of all races, but especially those of colour, to develop and improve and be the best referees they can be from park level to semi-pro and beyond.

After refereeing at Level 4, Ashley is now an observer for the Norfolk and London FA

What experiences have you had in refereeing? Both positive and challenging?

In my experience at least, being a referee of colour, like in life, you have to work harder to prove yourself initially and sometimes this is tiring. That said, on the whole, refereeing has been excellent for me in my development as a teacher, as a writer and just as a person generally.

I’ve had the honour of refereeing several county cup finals, refereeing in front of hundreds of fans for various FA competitions and supply league games and to be honest, there are too many good memories to mention. I do not regret a single second of it since signing up for the course aged 16 all those years ago.

What advice would you give to anyone reading this about refereeing?

If you’re a referee already, continue to work hard, aim high, train well and rest properly. If you’re not a referee yet and you love football, contact your County FA and sign up: no matter your age, race, sex or background, there's a place for you on the pitch. I believe the more that refereeing is reflective of the players who play the game, more reflective of the make-up of British society, the more beneficial it will be for everybody who loves football.

By Farai Hallam National referee manager