At a time when numbers are critically low across the region, Berwickshire-based referee Jonathan Gall hopes his successful progression through the SFA ranks will encourage more people in the Borders to pick up a whistle.
Gall (25) is now in his fifth season as a referee and, now ranked among the top 100 referees in the country, is enjoying his first few months on the Scottish FA’s senior officials list.
Discussing his decision to take up officiating, Gall said: “When I realised I wasn’t going to compete at the highest level as a player, I felt that opportunity was there through refereeing.
“I’m glad I made that decision, as now I’ve got to train and work alongside some of the top officials in the country. I’m learning every week and it’s something I would recommend to anyone.”
While Gall is now officiating in the SPFL and Scottish Cup, he believes it is an exciting time to get involved at any level.
“I started out in the Border Am and it’s a great level of football. Every game is really unpredictable, which makes it really exciting to be a part of.”
Looking up one level, the arrival of several junior teams has made the East of Scotland a great league to become involved in for officials.
“With the Junior clubs moving across into the pyramid, the league has been revitalised. The level of performances has improved and I’ve refereed in front of some crowds that professional clubs would be jealous of.”
Attendances have certainly increased, with the Linlithgow Rose average attendance this season recorded as 361, a figure higher than League Two clubs Edinburgh City, Cowdenbeath and Albion Rovers.
“Refereeing in front of these growing crowds is a great way to prepare yourself for life at a higher level,” Gall added.
The 25-year-old feels one of the most rewarding aspects of refereeing locally is supporting youth football – and says you can do this while continuing to play.
“A lot of people don’t realise you don’t have to give up playing – players who still want to enjoy Saturdays with their mates can still pick up a whistle on a Sunday and oversee a local kids’ game.”
Becoming a referee typically takes between four to six weeks. With a new course coming up soon in the Borders, anyone interested can contact the Edinburgh & District Referees Association at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.