Ref returns to city school to inspire match officials of future

Daniel Graves. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Daniel Graves. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A SCOTTISH referee has returned to his old high school to inspire the next generation of match officials.

Daniel Graves, 22, of Craigentinny, was a fifth year at Holy Rood High School when he was first introduced to a refereeing course as part of his physical education.

It instantly grabbed Daniel’s attention and he passed the SQA Referee Development Award programme at the age of 16, while still playing for Tynecastle Boys Club. It wasn’t long before he caught the eye of the Edinburgh and District Referees Association and hung up his playing boots to pursue a career as the man in the middle.

After graduating from Edinburgh University with a degree in teaching, he was posted back to his former school. On his return he decided to reintroduce the course to see his students follow in his footsteps.

He said: “The course has a number of positives for the children including leadership and man management skills. We’re giving it a good go and the hope is to get some into refereeing. I think it helps their understanding of the game and the importance of being respectful towards officials.”

The qualification is split into two sections; a laws of the game test and a practical refereeing element. Upon successful completion, candidates can join their local referees’ association and start a career in refereeing.

The course has been well received with 42 children participating, including eight girls, something Daniel believes is great for the game.

He said: “Women’s football is growing and there is a need for female officials. When I did the course it was just all boys so it shows how far women’s football has come.”

Daniel is currently a grade three official with his dream of moving up to a grade one status and officiating in the Scottish Premiership. He began his career refereeing junior games, rising to international standard when being on the line for the U16 Home Nations Internationals for Scotland vs Republic of Ireland and Wales vs Northern Ireland.

A career highlight for Daniel was running the line at Hampden Park between Queens Park and Livingston.

Football referees are accustomed to jeers and abuse on the pitch and from the touchline, but Daniel says he takes criticism in his stride.

Daniel said: “It’s actually easier if more people shout because you can zone out. You have to just not let it affect you. You have to be mentally strong to be a referee and I’m hoping to improve all the time to make it to the top.”

Now he referees up to twice a week and has training every Wednesday with the Edinburgh and District Referees Association. He also tries to keep fit, on top of his Monday to Friday job.

The busy lifestyle does not get in the way for Daniel though, with him having the same objective as his students.

He said: “I’d love to make it one day. I’ve got to give out consistently good performances for a few seasons to make the steps up but I’m enjoying it.

“I’m hoping we get some students go on to become officials and I hope my experience can help them on their way.”

Daniel Graves was speaking at the North Bridge Specsavers. The firm has assisted with the training and development of Scottish referees since 2002.