Late last month, young Merseyside grassroots referee Callum Jones formed part of a team of officials overseeing the Premier League Under-16 International Tournament at Loughborough University.
Pictured: Christiana Hattersley Victor Rivas, Callum Jones and Kavan Hurn
Especially for the Liverpool County FA website, Callum provides a personal account of his experience of being involved in such a prestigious competition…
"I was delighted in to be chosen to represent the FA Centre of Refereeing Excellence (CORE) for the second season and attend a Premier league U16 international tournament. I was one of 21 FA CORE referees who attended the tournament and was also joined by three officials from the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). It is the governing organization for 40 countries in North and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Three South American countries are also members. We were joined by Victor from USA, Raul from Costa Rica and a Selvin from Honduras, who were all full-time referees in their respective countries.
"Joining us also was a contingent of seven FA CORE coaches, as well as CONCACAF coach Leo Leal, who was an ex-FIFA assistant referee that officiated at three consecutive World Cup finals. All eight coaches were full of experience at the highest level of the game and were on hand to provide development and technical advice.
"The tournament ran over three days, with nine British teams including Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City, with three international teams in Palmeiras, Internacional and River Plate. We were put into teams of four and assigned a coach. I was joined by a female official from Lancashire FA, who is also part of the North West CORE group, Christiana Hattersley; Charlie Roberts from Essex FA and Andy Whittingham from Staffordshire FA. Joining our team was Liverpool FA’s very own George Cain, who was there to provide his expert advice to help us develop.
"During the tournament we oversaw one game as referee, two games as assistant referees and one game as fourth official. I was in the middle for Stoke City versus Palmeiras from Brazil, whom I had experience of refereeing at last season’s tournament. It was a fast paced game which was a pleasure to be in the middle of and I felt I refereed really well with the game finishing a 1-1 draw and me only issuing one caution.
"Moving into Sunday, our team was handed the semi-final between Chelsea and Internacional from Brazil, with Chelsea running out 2-0 winners thanks to a dramatic late penalty and a goal in stoppage time, which booked them a place in the final. The final was a repeat of last season’s; Chelsea versus Manchester City, the final was refereed by Victor Rivas of the USA, assisted by the Lancashire FA duo of Christiana Hattersley and Kavan Hurn, with myself as fourth official. A successful tournament by the North West representatives, I was delighted to be rewarded with a place in the final team after the previous year I had also been assistant referee on the Chelsea versus Manchester City final. This was also a great opportunity to learn from an official who operates as a VAR in the MLS and referees in the USL, which is the league below. It was interesting to see a referee with a different style carry out his pre-match routine and his on-field performance, which was very impressive. Chelsea ran out 1-0 winners over 10-man Manchester City, in a fiercely competitive and close game.
"Overall, it was once again a fantastic opportunity to learn and develop in a professional environment. Working with officials from different parts of the county and abroad was very valuable and I have taken plenty from the weekend which will enhance my development as a match official.
"I would like to thank FA CORE for the chance to attend my second tournament and all the coaches who provided their expertise over the weekend; hopefully I will be able to use this to have a very successful 2019/20 season."