THE second in a series of articles on Suffolk officials to celebrate Black History Month.
Irvin Flaherty, 64, is a Level 5 official who referees on the Suffolk & Ipswich League and also does Veterans’ and Women’s matches.
When did you take up refereeing?
In the early 1980s, although I was doing friendlies and pre-season games for teams before that.
Why did you decide to give it a go?
I wasn't anything special playing football; I knew I had limited talents.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a referee?
The most rewarding aspect of refereeing is being appreciated by players, coaches, mangers and supporters alike. It’s when people approach you after a game and tell you they've enjoyed the game or how you've handled the game or stop you in the street days, weeks or even months later and comment on a game that they've enjoyed that you've refereed.
What do you think could be done to attract more Black officials?
The lack of black officials at the top end of the game says plenty about the FA's lack of multiculturalism in an otherwise multicultural society. Over the years there has been two black officials at the most that have made it to the top. Alf Buksh and Uriah Rennie. No-one else and no-one in living memory for the majority of people.
What would you say to a Black person considering becoming a referee?
I would heartily encourage them to do it, as long as they have a strong love for the game. But I'd say that to anyone of any nationality irrespective of colour or nationality.
Anything else you would like to add?
Football is one of the few games that is played in every single nation of the world. It’s a great game that people of all ages love. Male and females play the game at all levels. It brings people together, so no matter who you are you can be involved in the game. Whether it’s playing or helping out in some capacity there’s always something that can be done to help teams out. Volunteering would help a local team out and help to ensure there’s somewhere and something for the younger generation in the near future.
If you are looking to become a referee, contact your local FA and someone will put you in contact with the referees’ department. There's plenty to enjoy about refereeing. And if you start young enough and you are good enough the world could very quickly become your oyster.
Male and female officials from this area are progressing through the leagues right up to international levels, so the opportunities are there to progress. But first and foremost, go out to enjoy your refereeing as that is what will bring long-lasting enjoyment and ensure you stay involved for years to come.
Irvin Flaherty is pictured above after being presented with his medal for refereeing the 2019-20 Suffolk Senior Reserve Cup Final between Woodbridge Town Reserves and Beccles Town Reserves at Lowestoft Town FC.
Suffolk FA have two Referee courses coming up as follows:
Venue: Needham Market FC
Dates: Tuesday & Wednesday October 24th & 25th, 9am-3.30pm
Booking link: https://rebrand.ly/t3wj4c9
Venue: Walsham-le-Willows FC
Dates: Monday, November 20th, 6.30pm-9.30pm and Sunday, November 26th, 9am-5pm
Booking link: https://rebrand.ly/60p7wpn