Josh Langley-Fineing

Referee Spotlight: Joshua Langley-Fineing

Level 3 Referee talks rapid progression, importance of honesty, future ambitions and more…

In the latest of our Referee Spotlight series, sponsored by REFSIX, we spoke to recently promoted, Level 3 referee, Joshua Langley-Fineing. 

At just 23-years-old, Josh has risen through the ranks at a rapid pace having only given up playing the game a few years ago. 

Refereeing however, did initially start for Josh as a 16-year-old, when he was encouraged to join the course by his then club, Eastbourne Borough. 

“I thought it would just be a good bit of extra money on the side of still playing!” Josh exclaims, having no idea at the time it was to be a path he’d follow instead of playing. 

“I started playing, probably when I was about 10, and I was a goalie! Not sure why... I just said to my dad I wanted to play in goal. 

“Then played for a few youth teams as a 'keeper, I was at Sovereign Saints, then I moved to Eastbourne Borough who I stayed with until I was 18. 

“Going into the course, at 16, I was just interested to learn about the different side of the game and get involved more in football to be honest.

“My tutors on the course were Theo Parfitt and Darren Eaton, I can't remember too much from the course, but I remember doing an exam and the practical session outside, but it's all changed now.” 

Josh took to the whistle quickly, and soon saw it as beyond a hobby once praise started coming in. 

“The first games I did were good, obviously they were youth games. I couldn't drive at the time, so my dad and family were quite supportive in taking me to games which was good. It was nerve-wracking going into it, but you get the first few games under your belt and you realise it isn't so bad!

“Back then, it was just a bit of a side job to bring a bit of money in, but then once you start getting comments from family and teams saying you've done well, it gives you confidence. 

“You have those typical ones where a team's won 6-0, and they tell you you're the best referee they've had all season! But yeah those comments do give you confidence like I said, and it gave me the urge to keep it going.

“I eventually had a decision to make though because I was playing county division one with Langney Wanderers, and after the 17/18 season they brought another goalkeeper. The 18/19 season I played for the under-23s before going to Sidley but after that I just didn't really enjoy it. 

“I think during the 17/18 season I got my Level 7 to 6 promotion as well, so I was confident then that I could go 6 to 4. I wasn't refereeing on Saturdays though because I was playing, so I needed to decide whether I pursue it or not.”

Josh Langley-Fineing pre-match
“Back then, it was just a bit of a side job to bring a bit of money in but then once you start getting comments from family and teams saying you've done well, it gives you confidence."

Josh went into open-age football having only just become an adult himself, and he tells us of what affect it had on him as a person.

“It was better going into open-age football; I feel with youth football, parents are a bit rowdier, but with adult football, mostly it's just managing the game.

“Game-management can be tricky at times, you obviously have more swearing, players will answer back a bit more, but I feel like I took it in my stride.

“I definitely grew up as a referee going into open-age, I was 18 or 19 at the time and it definitely matures you. I was quite shy growing up and back then I would have probably said no to this interview!

“Refereeing overall has hugely helped my confidence, and I've really grown as a person so it was the best thing I could have done.”

Refereeing certainly hasn’t come without it’s challenges though for Josh, but he feels honesty is the best way to learn.

“There's been some learning moments for me where you think you've heard something, and you might not have heard exactly what you thought.

“A recent example was a player saying, "that's a disgrace" and I heard it as something that was a bit more expletive, so I sent him off. I shouldn't have done it, and I admitted to my mistake after the game which they thanked me for.

“I offered to speak to the secretary of the league and the Sussex County FA, admitting to my mistake, and get it appealed for them. I'm always quite honest about my performances, there's nothing I'll back away from, I think it's important as referee to do that.

“When someone questions my decision, whether it be during the game or after, I’ll just be as honest as possible, that's all you can be. There's no point beating around bush; if you've given a penalty that wasn't a penalty, then at the end of a game, if that gets questioned, you've just got to admit it sometimes.”

Josh’s progression at such a young age, shows the potential that possesses. We’re speaking with Josh only days after he returned from a well-earned, four-month break travelling, on the back of a very successful season.

“I firstly went from 6 to 5 because that was the season I was still playing, and I was balancing trying to get promotions just by doing under-23s games midweek and then the Sunday games.

“I didn't have enough games to go straight to 4, so it was 6 to 5 initially, and that's when I thought I needed to go for this a little bit more. I felt like I could referee a lot higher than I could play, which obviously I am now proving to be the case!

“It was a big shock for me to get the double promotion last season; with COVID, I couldn't get my promotion to Level 4 as soon as I hoped, so I ended up getting it mid-season, last year, so the 21/22 season, then by the end of it I got the promotion to Level 3.

“There's a lot of people I can thank for this, especially my coach Gary Willard last season for getting me through. I had worked hard, didn't really close many dates, kept my Saturdays free, and it's definitely paid off!”

Josh Langley-Fineing KO
“Refereeing overall has hugely helped my confidence and I've really grown as a person so it was the best thing I could have done.”

Like all referees, Josh is still only human and tells us of how he tries to improve, and the benefits of a strong support network. 

“I have a season ticket at Brighton and whenever I'm there, it sounds silly, but I always look at how the referees are positioning themselves, how they deal with different scenarios. 

“Even going to park football, county football, Isthmian League, National League, I will still always look at how the referee sees different situations. 

“I've always been in refereeing groups as well, I was invited to the Junior Development Group where I had a coach called Dom Barrow, then going through to Level 4, I was invited to the Sussex Senior Development Group where I had Gary Willard. 

“Gary has been a fantastic support for me, as was Dom. Gary came to watch me a few times last year, always had a chat after, always supporting different queries I had.”

As far as his promotions go, they are obviously big highlights for Josh, and with that, has come some big games for him as well. 

“After my mid-season promotion, I was appointed to Worthing vs. Dorking Wanderers in The FA Trophy Second Round. Even though it was absolutely freezing! It must have been about -2 degrees but still a fantastic experience. 

“To be on the same pitch as a Mike Ryan who is a Level 2B, was incredible and another one was Worthing vs. Horsham on New Year's Day in front of I think just over 2,000 fans. 

“Just walking out for those kinds of games is so different to walking on a park with 22 people and an old man with his dog watching the game!

“I'm just raring to go for this season now, I'll be in the middle for the Isthmian League, and then on the line for National League so I really can't wait.

“When you walk out to those crowds, there's obviously nerves, bit of excitement, but probably more excitement because growing up, Saturday's always been game day, so it just feels like that.

“There's always a bit of me that's nervous before a game, but if that ever went away, I'd probably stop refereeing, because I think that's where the enjoyment comes from.”

Josh doesn’t want the promotions to end here and whilst he is still very grounded, he has ambitions to go further. 

“100% I'm looking to keep progressing, and now obviously this is where the proper hard-work starts. The merit table goes national I think now once you're at Level 3, so I've got to work as hard as I can. 

“I think anyone my age or similar that's at this level, their goal is to get as high as possible. I can't look too far ahead, and after four months out, travelling, I just want to get back to it now!”

Josh Langley-Fineing lineup
“100% I'm looking to keep progressing, and now obviously this is where the proper hard-work starts. The merit table goes national I think now once you're at Level 3, so I've got to work as hard as I can."

The rapid rise of Josh at such a young age should inspire anyone that refereeing can take you far if you put the work in. He is very modest in how it is that he’s managed it, but don’t be surprised to see him progress even further in the coming years.

Lastly, he offered advice to anyone thinking of becoming a referee: “Try and get as much support as possible when you start. If you can speak to any high-level referees then do so. Just be yourself, if you make a mistake, don't dwell on it, you can't change what's happened, just look ahead to the next game. 

“Get yourself into any groups you can, like the different development groups, or get yourself to the local RA meetings, they're always fantastic. 

“Brighton RA is great, you get some really high-level referees there, my ex-coach Gary Willard is there as well so you're in good hands.”

For more information about refereeing in Sussex please contact:

T: 01903 768573

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