MOST young boys hope to one day become a professional footballer.
For the vast majority those dreams are shown the red card – but now one group of pupils is looking to make good use of it.
A batch of fifth and sixth-year boys at Holy Rood High School have become qualified referees after being introduced to the course by their teacher, an SFA whistler.
James Campbell, who presides over Scottish Football League matches, led the course during PE lessons, with 18 new referees set to “graduate” at a ceremony later this month, to be attended by either Craig Thomson or Steven McLean, both SPL officials.
The course was run by the Scottish Football Association in conjunction with the Scottish Qualifications Authority.
Mr Campbell said the new referees had the potential to reach the top in the sport.
“The world’s their oyster, so to speak,” he said. “It’s now up to them – the effort they put in is what they will get out of it.
“After graduating, the boys will be eligible to accept appointments from the SFA and begin a career in refereeing, which will hopefully see them progress to the top at some point and appear in some of football’s greatest competitions.”
He insisted the pursuit would boost the youngsters’ health – and their finances.
He said: “In the short-term, as well as being a great addition to any CV, new referees can expect to earn anything from £30 to £40 per match, and with some referees doing two or three games a weekend, it can prove to be quite a financial gain.
“The pupils will now be taken on board by the Edinburgh referee association, where they will benefit from weekly physical training sessions to improve fitness.”
Fifth-year pupil Daniel Graves, 16, has already dressed all in black to take charge of youth matches and has lofty ambitions for his future. “The course was really enjoyable and gave me an insight into the game that I never knew before,” he said. “I would love to go right to the top.”
The SFA Professional Referee Development Award sees pupils learn the 17 laws of the game, with the teenagers shown interactive DVDs and put through their paces in a rigorous fitness test, as well as sitting exams.
Mr Campbell said the school scheme, which failed to attract any girls, had the full backing of football chiefs.
The 22-year-old added: “We are one of only ten schools in Scotland doing the course at the moment and are the first to pilot it in Edinburgh.
“The SFA are extremely pleased with the progress we are making and are excited at the prospect of having this amount of new talent embarking on a career in refereeing.”