It’s official: refs are getting younger


Elliott Kaye has become the top Jewish official after accepting an invitation to officiate in the Football League next season. At just 23, he will also become one of the youngest on the circuit.

In his final year of a Business Studies degree at Leeds University, Kaye has been working his way up the refereeing ladder for the past nine years and he is confident that his ambition can be matched by performances on the field of play.

The Redbridge referee currently takes charge on the contributory and panel leagues which include the Premier League reserves. His most high profile game to date saw him run a line at Eastlands when Liverpool reserves visited Manchester City.

Holding a Level 3 qualification, Kaye will be an assistant-referee in the FA Cup, Championship, League One and Two from season 2009/10. He said: “To be promoted to the Football League is a dream come true. Now I want to go as far as I can and know that I will have to be on top of my game in every match.

“To be a good referee you have to be confident and have self-belief. Football is a passionate game and it comes down to how you deal with different situations. I try to have a laugh with the players and enjoy the banter. The positives by far outweigh the negatives for sure.

“The key word on the circuit is bouncebackability. Referees need to reflect and learn from their mistakes and be better and stronger as there is very little time between games.”

In his youth, the former King Solomon High pupil played in the Echo League and one of his first experiences as a referee came in the Maccabi League. He said: “I enjoy refereeing and aged 16, decided I wanted to give it everything. I am an ambitious person and want to achieve as much as I can. To be involved in the game you love is an incentive in itself.”

Now a licenced referees instructor, Kaye is thankful for the support of his family. He said: “My dad, Leslie, has been a great help. Aged 14, he encouraged me to do a course to learn about the game.

“In my early days as a ref, he helped me get to games. Without him it would have been very difficult.”

What does it take to make a good ref? “You need to go out and be yourself, first and foremost. You cannot pretend to be someone else. You have to play to your strengths, have good man-management, leadership skills, commitment and be a good listener as you are given lots of advice. Not all of it works but you must work that out for yourself. Asked about the pressures of modern day refereeing, Kaye said: “Once I walk on to the pitch I just concentrate on the game. I know that every decision is scrutinised and mistakes are inevitable as nobody is perfect. Obviously the less mistakes you make the better.”

Looking at the spat between Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez, he said: “With so much money at stake, the managers try to get into the referee’s head but you cannot let it affect you. I think team colours rather than names.

Graham Poll, the referee best remembered for showing three yellow cards to the same player at the last World Cup, is his idol. Kaye said: “He was a top-class referee and is a top-class bloke.”

He believes that the FA’s Respect campaign is making a difference. “In terms of player behaviour towards referees, then it has been a success. Caution levels at grass roots level are down so it is clearly having an impact.”

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