Like any aspiring referee, it’s important to have peers to look up to, and Owen always makes sure he learns from those around him.
“Whenever I am a referee or an assistant, I always try to look at what other officials on my team are doing and try to take bits I like from their game.
“I'm incredibly fortunate at the moment to have a coach as part of the development group which is Irvine Woodward. He's been there and done it at all kinds of levels in football.
“He once observed me, this was before he was my coach, going from Level 6 to 5, and I was hit by the ball twice in the game. It was mortifying for me! We discussed it afterwards and concluded, one of them was my fault and one was because the player just wellied it at me from about five metres away. Irvine gave me one little bit of advice about positioning your run and curving your run behind the play and just little things like that you then try and build into your next game.
“I've had the pleasure of running the line for Steve Hughes a couple of times, and he is up at National League level, he gave me some great guidance and I picked up a lot working alongside him.”
So how does Owen find being on the line? “I prefer being in the middle because you can run away from the abuse! No, I enjoy being an assistant referee. As I say I always try and learn from whoever's in the middle. I enjoy engagement with the benches. I enjoy engagement with the fans sometimes too.
“With what I've done for a living for a long time, I've taken most of the abuse that you can imagine. So long as the communication from the side-lines is light-hearted, you can have a bit of a laugh and a joke with people and I enjoy that side of the game.
“I really like to line to a younger referee coming through, because sometimes you can just reinforce their confidence a little bit. They might only be 17, 18, or 19 and dealing with guys who are older than them on the field. But they've at least got that reassurance of someone that little bit older or more experienced, like me, on the line who can back them up.
It always seems to be a match made in heaven when a police officer decides to take up the whistle. Managing conflict, handling tough situations, and Owen believes whilst his experience has helped him, it can go the other way as well.
“I think it can go one of one or two ways. I mean, one thing people always say to me is 'do you just like being shouted at?' Which I think is probably true!
“You should have those skills (as a police officer) in managing conflict, managing confrontation, empathising with people and being able to defuse things, they're vital skills, I think, for refereeing and for policing.
“The counterpoint to that can be police officers don't generally like being told that they're wrong. With refereeing I've always tried to say sorry. So, one thing I'll always try and do with players, if I think I might have got that wrong, is to say 'yeah, I might have done sorry.'”
What’s more, Owen’s natural and easy-going approach to refereeing, he believes allows him to manage that conflict well.
“It always seems to be throw-ins that cause absolute meltdown! A throw-in where there's absolutely no danger on the pitch. I do try to talk a lot when I'm refereeing, sometimes I get told I talk too much. But my approach is that if people understand what I'm giving, they might not like it, but at least they understand where it's coming from.
“If I don't see something, I just turn around and say, ‘sorry, guys, I was in the wrong place there I couldn't see through your man.’ Just starting with 'sorry, guys,' makes a difference, or having a smile on your face when you give decisions.
“I think those things do come from not being affected by people shouting at me. I'm not bothered by people being aggressive because I've spent years dealing with it. The abuse we get, in my experience, it's not personal, it's frustration. Some people overstepped the mark and go way too far, I've had a few like that. But by and large is not personal, it's just at the situation.
“So, you just manage it and don't lose your rag with it. Those very much are transferable skills that that come across and I have actually said to players before 'I've got 20 years in the old bill if you can say something to me I haven't heard before I'll buy you a pint after the game!'
“Most of them laugh, some take it is a challenge. Sometimes I've found if you do that with certain players, you have to be careful which players it is or which managers it is, they appreciate that more.
“So, you might get, 'ref, your awful!' I often say, 'well if I was any good I wouldn't be refereeing you!’ I remember saying last season, 'fellas, we're at a park in Seaford on a Sunday morning. None of us are Ronaldo and I'm not Howard Webb, let's get on with it!'
“More often than not people respond well to that, apart from the odd one who gets his ego a bit dented. But I think if you can be a little bit self-depreciating with it, and accept a bit coming back your way people prefer it, and people engage with it through being human, you're not being officious.”