RAF FA Referee Course 2022

Flt Lt Rich Graves Referee Interview

Cpl Chris Arnell
Hear from recently qualified referee Flt Lt Rich Graves on why and how he got started in refereeing via The RAF FA.
 RAF FA X England Football
 Rich Graves

Flt Lt

Rich Graves

Level 6 Referee


What made you want to get into refereeing?

I tore a muscle a few years ago and never fully recovered to the same level. I’m not one who enjoys playing casually and upon the realisation that I’d never play at the same level again I decided to scale back playing at all. A friend of mine talked me into doing the course but then the more I thought about it, the more I was attracted to the idea of being back involved in the game. My first goal is to officiate at the level I once played and then, if I’m good enough and continue to enjoy it, to push on from there.

How did you find the course?

The course is a mixture of theory and practical sessions, covering all the basics you need to know to be able to officiate your first set of games. Aside from the pre-course learning, there is no requisite level of knowledge or experience expected of you, so it’s a really relaxed environment. The tutors are all vastly experienced referee’s too, so as well as delivering the core material you also get plenty of nuggets of information and advice from them.

What opportunities to referee have the RAF given you?

I started with Station football, which is a safe space to officiate your first few games and make the inevitable mistakes. As well as the obvious refereeing experience, you’ll also regularly find yourself working as an Assistant Referee with an experienced Referee, something which most civilian officials won’t do for a couple of years after qualifying. In addition to Station games, I’ve been involved in fixtures featuring RAF Representative Teams on numerous occasions, one of which was played at England’s training complex, St. George’s Park.

Can you get involved with civilian leagues?

Absolutely. If you’re a fairly prolific referee, then that’s where most of your games will come from. There’s a wide variety of leagues you can register to officiate in immediately after finishing the course, depending on what type of football you want to be involved in. This season I’ve officiated across under 18’s, Men’s, Women’s and Veteran’s leagues. Each offers different challenges and atmospheres so naturally you’ll gravitate towards a preferred league and work within that.

Does the RAF FA offer any other support to referees?

Immediately after the course the RAF FA will allocate a mentor who is stationed near you. They will be on hand to offer their experience and advice during the early games and will try to come and watch to offer some first-hand feedback. In addition, the RAF FA host biannual seminars where all RAF Referees are invited to come together for a 2-day training event. This usually comprises a mixture of theory and practical sessions, culminating in a guest speaker such as a Referee from professional football. There’s also lots of unofficial support offered within the RAF FA network of referees; for example, if you have a question to ask, you’ll usually get an answer within a few minutes.

What has been your highlight as a referee this season?

To be selected as one of the Officials for the Men’s Inter-Services fixture between the Army and the Royal Navy was certainly a highlight. The Inter-Services fixtures are the highest-profile games played within the military and so it was a real privilege to be selected to be part of the officiating team for the men’s fixture at Huish Park, home of Yeovil Town FC.

What other opportunities are available to RAF Referees?

In addition to the routine fixture programme there’s quite frequently invitations for RAF Referees to officiate at one off tournaments or fixtures, such as small-sided tournaments within the RAF or the sister-Services or fixtures involving one of the RAF Representative Teams. There also opportunities for RAF Referees to travel to North America for the USA Cup, an international youth football competition, this is something I’d like to do in the future.


If you would like to get more information about refereeing within the RAF, please contact education@royalairforcefa.com or visit the Referee Course Page to see upcoming courses.


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