Youngsters wanting to follow in the footsteps of their parents is nothing unusual, but when you are the daughter of one of Scotland’s most high profile football referees, the appeal of doing so would appear to wane somewhat.
However, it is a career Vikki Allan has pursued with relish, the 24-year-old a rising star within the whistling fraternity, already a FIFA assistant referee who only a couple of months ago ventured abroad to help officiate at a women’s World Cup qualifying competition.
When, at the age of 16, Vikki announced her intentions, dad Crawford admitted he believed it would prove to be no more than a passing fad, but today he’s immensely proud that as he hangs up his whistle his daughter is more than making a mark in the game.
While agreeing many might regard her decision as rather strange, Vikki insists it was a natural step for her, saying: “I’d grown up with it all my life, dad had started just before I was born so I knew nothing different in that sense.
“I thought I could do it. Perhaps I didn’t think I’d carry it on, but I found a love for it after I passed my test and had my first few games. My friends thought I was pretty crazy, especially a female going into a male-dominated forum.
“It is time-consuming, it’s not a case of just turning up for those 90 minutes, you have to be very fit. But the opportunities you can get are absolutely amazing.”
Match officials, of course, need a thick skin, more so probably when they are running the line in the lower leagues and Juniors where virtually every insult can be heard, something Vikki insisted she has learned to ignore although, she admitted, sometimes that can be difficult.
Vikki, who is also secretary of the Edinburgh and District Referees’ Association, said: “I just get treated the same as anyone else – take that however you like – but the first few times you do get ‘it’s a female on the line’. You can hear virtually every word and one time I could hear two older gentlemen behind me discussing what they should call me. Then I gave a decision and all I heard was ‘Liness, Liness’, I had to stop and ask what they’d called me. It’s all said in the heat of the moment but nine times out of ten I’m right, no, ten times out of ten.”
Dad Crawford admitted to having some misgivings as Vikki set out but, he insisted, as he discovered in a career which began in 1991, refereeing can open up a whole new world, recalling how both he went from ref classes at Boroughmuir High School to being fourth official at a Champions League match between Ajax and Real Madrid and sharing a joke with Crisitano Ronaldo.
It was one of 15 such games Allan was involved in along with a number of Europa League clashes but one he remembers fondly. He said: “I was fourth official for that game and Calum Murray, who’d been in the same entrant class as me, was one of the additional officials for behind the goal.
“It was one of those ‘pinch yourself moments’, driving to the Amsterdam Arena in the dark in a private minibus with the windows blackened out, wondering how did two young boys from Edinburgh get from where we had been to there.
“As fourth official I had to do what is called ‘stud control’ an hour before the game, checking boots, making sure none of the players were wearing jewellery and so on. Alonso, Ramos, Casillas and the like were there and to my left I could see Ronaldo in his under armour and shorts playing keepie-uppie.
“I told him to take out the wee earings he was wearing, picked up his boots – which were as light as a feather – and asked about his shinguards. He stopped playing keepie-uppie and said ‘you are English’. I said no and he replied: ‘I have it, you are Scottish. The boss [Sir Alex] Ferguson tells me Scotland is better’.
“I was a bit surreal but a fantastic experience. It was the night Real had two players deliberately sent off for time wasting. Their next game was a dead one and they wanted to clear their yellow cards so Jose Mourinho told them to deliberately waste time, although they were fined afterwards.”
Mourinho, Allan admits, was a “handful”, but nothing he wasn’t used to, the experience gained in dealing with some of Scotland’s more awkward characters also coming to the fore when legendary Portugeuse player Figo confronted him. He said: “Again I was fourth official and Figo was assistant at Inter Milan as they played CSKA Moscow.
“There was a free-kick given and he came towards me to complain. I remember giving him the eye-to-eye stare as best I could while putting my hand to my mouth to say ‘keep it shut’. I pointed back at his technical area, didn’t say a word but he said ‘sorry’ and went back. I thought ‘I’ve just told Figo to sit on his backside and he’s done it’.
“The positives are more than the negatives or I wouldn’t have encouraged Vikki.”
Times have changed since he himself was setting out, young would-be referees now enjoying a mentor system in which they are “buddied-up” with more experienced officials. Allan said: “It’s night and day. When I started you got a certificate and there was no help. You had to get your own kit and I remember rummaging through a black sack in 1991 and pulling out an old red Bukta top someone had probably worn in the 1970s and had handed in.”
Having dad at hand was, Vikki admitted, a massive help, not least because she could pick up his old gear as she started out although they didn’t always see eye-to-eye. She said: “When I lived at home I’d come in and say this or that had happened and he’s say yes, that’s wrong when I was telling him he had to agree with me.”
Allan has, on occasion, watched his daughter in action and although both are determined she is judged on her own merits, he admits to having once stepped in on her behalf as she found herself on the end of a verbal volley from a physio.
He said: “It was one of here first games at the Gyle, under 14 or under 15 boys and she had an offside decision to make but it was one of those that she couldn’t raise the flag until the forward interfered with play. I could see what was going to happen, the keeper came out, the attacker went through and they both went down needing treatment.
“The physio came on and started giving Vikki abuse – some colourful language. I couldn’t help myself so I walked on to the pitch. He looked up and I asked him to stop giving her abuse. He asked who I was and I had to think which card would I play. I played the father card telling him ‘I’m her dad so zip it’.
“I don’t think she was best pleased but the guy, a grown man, was unacceptable.”