In our latest Referee Spotlight, in association with REFSIX, we spoke to our very own employee, Lisa Benn, who has recently been appointed as a FIFA referee.
“I was so focused on the game that when someone sent me photos after the game I was like, 'Oh wow, I've just refereed at Old Trafford!'”
Lisa, who works with us as an Operations Officer, is a Women’s Super League (WSL) referee, a recently appointed FIFA referee, but she’s as modest as they come when discussing her achievements.
Growing up in Sussex, Lisa was actively involved in a variety of sports. Lisa was encouraged through friends at Polegate Grasshoppers to take the course. It was refereeing where she found her niche, completing a course with a friend as a youngster.
“Me and a friend took the course at 14, and it was the old course which you did for eight weeks in a classroom at the University of Brighton in Eastbourne.”
“I started out refereeing down at the pitches by Eastbourne General Hospital doing Old Town Boys' games. Usually, three games on a Sunday and then found I was enjoying it and doing more and more.
“I progressed through the ages getting really good feedback, and actually some of the players were starting to build a relationship with me as well.
“I had Roy Cheshire deliver the course, as well as Dave Jackson, and obviously he led on development groups as we progressed through. I have been supported on that by the likes of Ashley Slaughter, Paul Saunders, Gary Willard, Tim Robinson, all the names you've probably heard before and are well known to Sussex”
Lisa had no qualms about taking up the whistle and speaks of how she managed and continues to manage games.
“I loved the buzz of refereeing and when the game finished at the end of 90 minutes. I loved the idea of every game being different and never quite knowing what the game is going to present.
“I was very naïve! I just thought oh yeah I'll give that a go and there I was in the middle of a football pitch. My dad was my taxi ferrying me round games and meetings, and he was always on the side of the pitch supporting me.
“That said, he was definitely my biggest critic, he'd often say, 'I thought you were a bit soft today!' He'd ask me why I made certain decisions and then I'd educate him.
“I think refereeing a game of football is managing an event and managing players. You go out with the best intentions to see that game to a successful conclusion. “
“You're dealing with 22 individuals that all have different personalities, different emotions, and it's down to how you manage and interact with them.”
It’s fair to say Lisa took to refereeing very well and quickly became fascinated with progressing through the ranks. She tells us of her experience in the change of levels.
“I went through the promotion scheme whilst refereeing on the East Sussex League at Eastbourne Sports Park. I refereed my first men's game, the pitch was boggy, on a slope and if I'm honest it was my worst nightmare!
“I had some great support from people around me and took a step back to under-18s before going back. We all have those games that don't go to plan and that was definitely one of them.
“I progressed through the levels though from there, went from Level 7 all the way to Level 4, stayed at Level 4 operating on the Southern Combination Football League (SCFL) for many years, and enjoyed some of the grounds there!
“Refereeing adult football is a completely different concept to refereeing youth football. Youth football, the challenges are generally the parents on the side of the pitch, you manage the event and the people, but they are your biggest challenge. “
“As you referee and progress up to adult football I think the adults become more of the challenge than the spectators. Typically, what I said before about the different personalities, you need to manage the different emotions.“
“In terms of how I do that, I refer to it as housekeeping. It's making sure the throw-ins are in the right place, inputting your authority and letting the players know you won't be spoken to disrespectfully.”