FIFA referee Vikki Allan hopes to help inspire the next generation of officials after launching the Youth Referee Ambassadors programme.
Allan has long since become accustomed to squeezing the most out of her limited free time away from her day job with Standard Life Investments as she continues to climb the refereeing ranks.
Secretary of Edinburgh and Districts Referee Association, the daughter of former Category One whistler Crawford Allan is also busy in her role as a Scottish FA Youth Ambassador.
However, Allan considers the workload a blessing rather than a burden – with a host of amazing experiences to look back on.
A mile-high ‘To Do’ list doesn’t look so intimidating when you’ve climbed Kilimanjaro to run the line in a world record game.
Now she hopes to encourage others to follow in her footsteps with a scheme that aims to increase opportunities for up and coming officials to have their voices heard.
Allan explained: “It all stems from the Scottish FA Youth Ambassadors of Change programme, with 20 young people from across Scotland given their say across every area of the game.
“I’m involved in the refereeing side of things, and I got the idea after doing some work with my own association about creating a women’s role.
“That proved really successful so it made sense to create something similar for Youth Ambassadors across the board.
“We now have 12 young people who are a voice for refereeing in their own areas across Scotland.
“It’s about listening to how they feel, finding out about what’s going well and what’s not going so well.
“We learn about the challenges they face and what we can do to help them along the way.
“Football’s growing rapidly across the men’s and women’s game so stands to reason that you need enough referees to cater for that.
“So how can we recruit more referees? How can we retain more of them? How can we help them become top officials in Scotland?
“Those are the sort of questions the Youth Referee Ambassadors programme will hopefully help address.
“Refereeing represents a fantastic opportunity to be involved in the game.
“Not everyone will make it to officiating in a Champions League Final, but you never know where it could take you.
“I’ve had a fantastic journey and feel very lucky to have done the things I’ve done.
“In April I’ll have been refereeing for nine years and I’ve made it on to the FIFA list.
“I’ve had so many moments when I’ve thought ‘this has all been worth it’.
“It sounds a bit cringe-worthy but the Sunday of that first Youth Referee Ambassadors meeting was another of those moments.
“Getting everyone together was great. It’s not often that young people are listened to like that.
“They all have stories to tell and it’s something we’ll look to build on.”
Allan’s highs include making the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to help run the highest altitude match ever played back in June, but it hasn’t all been peaks like that along the way.
There have been sacrifices, moments of self-doubt and setbacks – as is the case for anyone who has ever picked up a whistle.
That accumulated experience is now clearly being put to good use.
Allan added: “I genuinely believe that every player at a club should get a basic refereeing qualification because it’s a great way to learn the laws of the game, even if they don’t take it on from there.
“A few might realise they love it and realise it’s a great way to stay in the game.
“People might think you’re out there on your own but it’s not like that. You’re part of a wider refereeing family.
“You’ll make mistakes along the way but everyone makes mistakes, no matter what job you’re in.
“You’ll learn so many skills that are transferrable to your work and your personal life. I’d always tell people to give it a try.
“I could never kick a ball to save myself but now I’m on the FIFA list and get to travel the world.
“Refereeing is like another full-time job but it’s always felt like more of a hobby.
“My boyfriend and family are really supportive and that’s a massive help. They know what I’m trying to achieve and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.
“I’ve met so many people and had so many great experiences.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world and I love the thought that we can encourage a lot more young people to take it up and see where it takes them.”