This month’s Referee Spotlight focuses on 23-year-old match official, Conall Bartlett, who has this week been appointed for the first time on the Emirates FA Cup First Round Proper.
One can only imagine the excitement at a young age to be officiating on football’s oldest competition that you’ve watched your whole life.
Speaking to Conall he had this to say on the appointment: “I’m really excited. I didn’t think in a million years I’d get a first-round game. I remember my first qualifying game and being excited, but when this came through, I just couldn’t believe it really.
“Just being sat at work and all of a sudden seeing that I’m officiating in the First Round of The FA Cup it’s just such a motivator and gives you a huge boost.”
The refereeing journey began for Conall when he was 16 and took the decision to stop playing football and it’s not one he’ll regret in a hurry: “I tried a season of doing both, but it just didn’t work! I knew I wouldn’t be able to do both, so I decided to choose refereeing and kicked on from there.
“It was just something to do on a Sunday morning. I wasn’t that good at football so when I started getting told I was good at refereeing it was quite a nice thing to hear.
“That, in itself, gave me the motivation to keep going really but I never saw it going this far. There’s certainly no referees that were good at playing or they wouldn’t be refereeing!”
It’s a clear and precise mindset, that has got Conall to this stage, of one game at a time and keeping himself focused on what’s in front of him: “It’s still early doors (this season), it’s all a bit mental and we don’t really know how much football we’re going to get. I’m just enjoying everything I get and ignore the fact it’s a strange time.
“Of course, I want to officiate at the highest level, but it is just every game as it comes and I’m not too shy to say that. If you look too far ahead, you’ll take your eye off the present and what’s now.”
In the Referee Spotlight series so far we’ve seen the challenges referees can face including being part of a minority and for Conall he tells us of the tests so far: “Being a young referee in general is a challenge. It’s sometimes hard to get the respect of players and clubs who have been in the game a lot longer than I have, but I like proving people wrong.
“It’s still obviously a challenge because this weekend for example, people will know I’m a young assistant referee on the game. I just hope I can put in a good performance and show that I am good enough to be there.”
Conall was part of The FA’s referees’ promotions in May and achieved Level 3E status and is now officiating at National League level. Whether it is refereeing or assisting, he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to go as far as he can in the game: “I’ve got to make that decision at the end of next season. If you’d have asked me last season what I’d do I’d probably say refereeing all day.
“At the moment though I’m honestly not sure which is a bit worrying! But I’ve still got a while to decide. It’s a shame I can’t do both really, but it’ll probably be a case of what I’m doing better in.
“I enjoy doing both, I don’t dread running the line, and I don’t dread refereeing; I just love doing both.”
What’s more, he shares with us his advice on how to stay mentally apt when starting out and progressing: “You’ve got to just enjoy it. You’re always going to come away from games thinking ‘I wish I did this’ or ‘I wish I did that’ but I’ve just tried to speak to as many colleagues as I can.
“We’re lucky to have so many great people in the county like Jeffers (Paul Jeffery), there’s Phil Wilks who was my coach for a long period of time. I always know that Jeffers is a phone call away and it’s never an inconvenience to him which is always so reassuring.
“Harry Lennard is another one who I speak to regularly. Just having that core group of people that you know you can speak to if you’ve had a tough game or something like that it’s so helpful.”
Our referee development manager, Paul Jeffery, had this to say: “We are delighted for Conall. He was first noticed at the Referees Basic course. Even at 16 years of age, he stood out as a young man, with a very wise and mature head on his shoulders.
“He had this hunger to learn, and we gave him the opportunities to do so. This was taken with both hands, moving through both our Sussex Development Groups, and also the National FA C.O.R.E (Centre of Refereeing Excellence) group. Conall is very well spoken of by his Coaches in both groups and is still a very pro-active member of the Sussex RA-FA Youth Council.”
As well as Conall’s appointment, we’re delighted to have a further nine officials in the Emirates FA Cup First Round Proper this weekend:
Leyton Orient vs. Newport County AFC
Assistant Referee: Damith Bandara
Havant & Waterlooville vs. Cray Valley
Assistant Referee: Conall Bartlett
Fourth Official: John Pike
Oxford United vs. Peterborough United
Fourth Official: Jacob Miles
Exeter City vs. AFC Fylde
Assistant Referee: Dean Treleaven
Tonbridge Angels vs. Bradford City
Fourth Official: Steven Hughes
Walsall vs. Bristol Rovers
Assistant Referee: Leigh Crowhurst
Bromley vs. Yeovil Town
Observer: David Phillips
Torquay United vs. Crawley Town
Assistant Referee: Matthew Lee
Gillingham vs. Woking
Fourth Official: Michael Ryan
For more information about refereeing in Sussex please contact:
T: 01903 768573