Daniel Graves is honest enough.
The major plus point of being coaxed into taking part in a refereeing course at Holy Rood High School in Edinburgh was the chance to avoid a ‘real’ weekend job.
He’d earn decent money for running around on a Saturday and Sunday while his pals put in a shift in less entertaining environments.
Little did he know, however, that a part-time pursuit would quickly become a full-blown passion.
Then-pupil Graves is now back at the school that lies near the capital city’s iconic Arthur’s Seat as a PE teacher.
Having come through the school’s first ever SQA Referee Development Award programme, he’s now running it and hoping to inspire the next crop of Scottish officials.
The award – run in partnership with the SQA and Specsavers – is a core part of the Scottish FA Referee Operation department’s strategy to encourage and increase participation in refereeing, with Graves a real poster boy for the scheme.
Tell us how this all started, Daniel.
I run the SQA Referee Development Award programme at Holy Rood High School in Edinburgh, where I am a PE teacher. I’m also a Category Three referee. The funny thing is that I came through the school’s first ever experience of the course, in 2012, and it hadn’t been run since. It was a former referee, James Campbell, who encouraged me to take part at the time during his own probationary year. I left for university, got my teaching degree, came back and was keen to start it back up. I spoke to Steven McLean at the Scottish FA and he was keen on the idea, as were the school. They said they had a really good group of boys and girls who would be keen on it, and it’s particularly pleasing to have eight girls on the course. It was all boys in my day, which shows the progress that’s being made on that front. In total I have 42 kids that are working their way through it.
What does the course consist of?
The course of made up of two units. The first is about the Laws of the Game and the pupils need to achieve at least 80 per cent in an online exam. The second unit is based around a fitness test, report writing and the ability to referee at least 30 minutes of an official game, whether it’s school football or youth level. It’s run within PE for fifth and sixth-year pupils as an elective subject. Hopefully they go on to achieve the SQA Referee Development Award and that earns them 16 SQA points which can go towards job or university applications. So it’s really beneficial, even for those who may not to continue progressing through the referee ranks.
What was your sales pitch to pupils considering giving it a go?
Essentially I just hope it sparks an interest in them. The main thing is that they get a different perspective of the game. The majority of the boys, especially, are playing football at some level for a team. I think it helps their understanding of the game and the importance of being respectful towards officials. You hope to inspire a handful of them to keep going with it because there are real opportunities there for them. There’s no reason why they can’t go on from here to become top referees. It also shouldn’t be ignored that there’s money to be made. At the start the way I looked at it was that I didn’t have to get a ‘real’ job. I could spend my Saturdays and Sundays running about.
How do you look back on your own journey?
Prior to doing the course refereeing wasn’t something I’d ever considered. I was playing for Tynecastle Boys Club and really enjoying my football. But James, who was running the course, said I should sign up and give it a go. I quickly got really into it. I must have refereed every Sunday for two years straight. When I got to 18 I was told I’d been watched and had done well, that I should take it seriously. It was then that I decided to really push and try to make a secondary career out of it. I got to referee my first game in the Juniors at 18 and Steven McLean told me I was the first person to make it to Category Three from that educational pathway. Other highlights include running the line in SPFL games once a month and being involved in the Victory Shield games at Oriam. Standing there with the national anthem playing… that was a great moment. Hopefully I’ll keep pushing on.
How big an influence has Steven been?
In terms of the course, Steven sent me on the UEFA clips so everything we use in class is right up to date. You can see the enthusiasm for it. It’s not just a normal class for them. They get to watch and talk about football, as well as working towards a qualification. I’m in touch with Steven quite a lot and I wanted some external motivation for the kids. It’s one thing for me to talk about it and tell them about the opportunities that can come their way through refereeing, but it was another thing to be able to invite him along in November 2017 to speak to them. Steven’s refereed at the highest level and the visit went down really well. Hopefully one of them will go on to follow in his footsteps.