Kim Etherington HERO

Referee Spotlight: Kim Etherington

Kim talks rising through the grassroots game, cup finals and blaming her partner for first getting her involved!

In the latest of our Referee Spotlight series, sponsored by REFSIX, we spoke with county referee, Kim Etherington

Thinking back to when she made the decision to take up refereeing, Kim is in no doubt as to where the blame lies.

“It’s all my partner Simon’s [Beckman] fault!” chuckles Kim, “he started refereeing back in around 2000, and I used to take him to his games.

“But I soon realised that, whilst Simon was refereeing one game, the game on the other pitch, wasn’t being properly officiated by anyone.

“So, Simon basically said, ‘well why don’t you just do it?’ and that’s how it all started."

Kim enrolled on a Referee Course in Brighton which was tutored by Paul Saunders and Dave Jackson.

“I understood football quite well, even before I took the course,” said Etherington, “because I’d been going to watch games with my dad since I was eight or nine. So, I had a decent knowledge of the game.

“Going into the course though was a relatively daunting experience, me being a relatively young woman in a room of men.

“But I remember it gave me a lot of confidence when we started talking about the foul throw law.

“I was the only one there who knew you could have your foot on the pitch without it being a foul, as long as you don’t lift them up, which certainly helped to settle the nerves!

“It also helped that Paul and Dave were really good and really approachable.”

Soon though it was time for Etherington’s first game in the middle of the park.

“It was an under-11s game but aside from that, I can’t really remember much about it, but I know it must have gone alright because I came back the next weekend and kept at it.

“When I qualified there were only two other female referees in the county, Angela Bennett and Lisa Benn.

“So, for a long time, the sight of a female referee in Sussex was a rare thing.”

Kim continued to grow and develop as a referee and found there was support available to her along the way.

“You do learn a lot from speaking to and watching a lot of other referees,” said Etherington, “It was great to go to all the RA meetings and chat with the other officials. I’d definitely encourage anyone to join and get involved with their local RA.

Kim Etherington, Andy Symonds, Paul Buckland

Kim working a game at The Amex Stadium, alongside Andy Symonds (centre) and Paul Buckland (far right)

“What also helped with my own development was talking to players, which is something I don’t think enough referees do.

“The other thing I remember trying to do more was to play the advantage as much as I could, which isn’t easy, but I’d always look to play it when I could.”

As Etherington continued to develop, bigger games started coming her way and soon she found herself running the line in the County Leagues.

“I can remember the first of those games I lined,” said Etherington, “I had Steve Baker in the middle, and Mark Lidbetter running the other line, and they’re two great guys and made me feel very welcome.

“I wasn’t treated any differently to anyone else, so it was a nice start to that chapter for me.”

Of course, whilst some officials running the lines standout for all the right reasons, some can stick with you for other reasons.

“Steve Hughes was always someone I was glad to see running the lines for me,” said Etherington.

“I can remember a Ryman Under-18s game, he and one other official were on the lines, and this other official clearly thought he was refereeing it, because he was putting his flag up for everything.

“It didn't matter how I was refereeing the game, he was putting it up for anything.

“At half-time though, Steve said to him ‘do her a favour, don’t stick your flag up unless you really have to, because you’re undermining her and making her look like an idiot.’”

“After that the second-half went well, so I was grateful to Steve for doing that.”

Of course, with Kim having been involved with refereeing for many years now, they’ve been privileged to witness the development of a number of promising match officials in Sussex.

“Jacob Miles is someone who really stands out looking back,” said Etherington.

“Back in the day, me and Simon were really good friends with his dad, Gerald, and so we’d end up working a lot of Sunday Youth League games together.

“And when he was around 13 or 14, Jacob also started to join in to learn the trade.

Kim Etherington officiating one of her many games here in Sussex

Kim on one of the many grassroots pitches she's officiated on over the years.

“So, to see what Jacob has gone on to achieve now, I feel proud that me and Simon were able to play some small part in his development in those early days.”

Away from the weekly league games, Etherington has also been a staple of many a County Cup Final, here at Culver Road.

“With the Cup Finals, the whole day is just such a great experience,” said Etherington, “of course the pressure is a bit higher because you’ve got everyone in the stands watching you, and their expectations are always dialled up.

“But in the Cup Finals I’ve been lucky enough to work, I don’t remember any major issues, so I’ll certainly take that!”

Dealing with fans is always something each referee handles in their own way, so what’s Etherington’s method of dealing with them?

“Nowadays what I’ll do is walk over to them and tell them that, if they think they can do better than me, they can have my whistle and I’ll walk away,” said Etherington.

“And more often than not, after doing that, that’s the last I’ll hear from them.

“Would I have done that 20-years-ago? No, but that’s what experience and confidence does for you.

“Something I tell younger referees is to always show that you're confident, even if you don’t particularly feel it at that point, and never change your mind.”

And as for those young women who might be thinking about following in Etherington’s footsteps and giving refereeing a go, what would she say to them?

“Do it!” said Etherington. “Get stuck in, because if you believe you can do it, then get struck in, and there’s plenty of help and support out there if you want it.

“Of course the world of referring has changed since I started out, and for the better I might add, as we’ve got more young girls coming through and more games for them to referee in the women’s pyramid.”

“For me, my love of refereeing always goes back to being able to help out and in doing so, help keep growing the grassroots game here in Sussex!”

For more information about refereeing in Sussex please contact:

T: 01903 768573

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