The Premier League is watched by half the worlds population and been in the original group of referees when the league was formed, I look fondly on that achievement.

However, I want to go back and look at my journey from Sheffield to Wembley and the experience of officiating or advising referees in over 100 countries around the world.

In 1960 having attended six evenings of instruction I sat and passed my referees’ examination at the Sheffield and Hallamshire County Football Association. Later that week I attended a meeting of the Sheffield and District Referees Association.

I signed up and became a member. Joining the RA was one of my first decisions as a referee and probably the best decision I made in my career.

Little did I realise that signing my membership form would be the passport to visiting countries around the World has a FIFA International Referee and the first Premier League Referee Ambassador.

That I would Referee the FA Challenge Cup Final. The European Championship Finals, 1988 Olympics, and the Centenary Game for The Football League,

My local Referees Association meetings took place at the now demolished Grand Hotel in the centre of Sheffield. I was rather taken aback by the many greetings and best wishes I received

The speaker that evening was Ken Aston a former FIFA Referee who had introduced the idea of red and yellow cards into the game some ten years after our first meeting.

Ken was the FIFA Official at Wembley who struggled having come onto the pitch to help the referee send-off Argentinian player Rattin.

Sidney Robinson a referee instructor who had taken me through every page of the Laws of the Game and my examination was across the room in the Grand Hotel and gave me the thumbs up.

I was also able at times to pick up the phone and discuss the Laws of the Game with Mal Davies who is based in the Midlands and is a real expert on their interpretation.

I will over the coming months provide you with many blogs to give you and insight into many of the games I have officiated.

When I finished my active career, I started to Assess and coach referees;

Eventually becoming the General Manager of the Professional Game Match Officials, the organisation responsible for all the match officials who operate at the professional level in England,

The Premier League is watched by half the world’s population, so you can guess that my email box after a weekend’s programme of games is rather full with questions on Law application and decisions made by our Match Officials. It is good to be able to chat with Mal Davies, a member and firm supporter of the Referees’ Association, the organisation that brought us in contact with each other.

Following the handshakes and the warm greeting on that first RA visit in Sheffield I sat down next to a guy called Brian Baker who since that day remained a real friend until his passing. I instantly recognised Brian because I had watched him run a line on ‘Match of the Day’ the previous Saturday evening. Looking around the room there were several people whom I had seen on television: George McCabe, Jim Carr, Harold Williams and of course Mick Lowe, who ensures even today that referees receive a warm welcome when Match Officials visit Sheffield Wednesday or United.  Mick and his after-match chicken and mushroom pie or chicken legs always create a topic of discussion amongst Match Officials.

The table at the back of the room was full of refereeing items from those terylene shirts with button collars and cuffs to pencils, notebooks and of course the pocket stopwatch with the 45 minutes clearly indicated in green. Bill Shirt, another referee, came up to me at the interval prior to the main speaker to tell me that he had a spare kit that I could borrow. He also advised me to save my fees until I could purchase kit for myself. Here was a member of the RA whom I had not met before, making this generous offer of help.  Neither he nor I could have known that his offer would set me on the path to officiating the Centenary Cup Final and many games around the world.

In 1980 my job took me to Romford and after a couple of days in the South I received a call from David Ainsworth inviting me to become a member of Romford RA. Those meetings were chaired by Ken Aston the person who I had met on my first visit to Sheffield RA.

Over many years I have had the pleasure of visiting RA meetings to address referees on issues that arise in games. My first talk was The Four C`s in Refereeing – Control, Communication, Confidence, and Consistency.

Another enjoyable RA visit was to Stoke on Trent to be interviewed by Gerald Sinstadt, whom I had listened to on many occasions when he did the commentary on live football games on television.  Gerald, a qualified referee, and a member of the RA.

My grateful thanks go to all the members of the Referees’ Association who have helped me personally in my active refereeing career and thereafter. I was able to assist the Association on its Centenary Event by handing over a cheque for £15,000 to aid their funds thanks to the generosity of the Premier League, Football League and Football Association.

Keys to Refereeing will be available to assist match officials in their career development,

Please contact me on 0114 339 2694 and sign up to be a member below.

Keith Hackett

So, what was it like of run out at Wembley to officiate the Centenary Cup Final read my next blog?