Andy Robertson won’t be the only man flying the flag for Scotland in the Champions League this weekend.
Deaf himself, Jason hopes he can prove an inspiration for others and highlight that football really is a game for all.
Jason, what inspired you to take up refereeing in the first place?
I started out back in 2005 but, before that, it originated from sitting watching a game with my father. We were watching and kept questioning the decisions that were being made. Not in a critical way. It was more a case of trying to explain it from a referee’s perspective. My father said that I obviously loved football and had a decent understanding of it, and that refereeing would be a good way for me to get involved in the game. Sometimes it’s hard to fit in but I thought I had nothing to lose and the rest is history. Before then I did enjoy playing – as a goalkeeper or a midfielder – but I’m a better referee.
Hugh Dallas actually played a big part as well, albeit indirectly. I remember watching an Old Firm game when he was struck by a coin from the crowd. When I saw he’d been hit I assumed he would go off and a replacement would take over. I really admired the way he got on with the game and saw his job through. He was brave and proved he had thick skin. It was amazing. That’s how we should all be as referees. We can’t be frightened to do the job. I know of people who have quit over the years after being on the receiving end of some abuse, but if Hugh could tough that out – under that pressure – so can we. Anyway, there’s no game without a referee.
What were the early challenges you faced?
I’ll be honest, at the start I thought my hearing would be more of a barrier than it’s proven to be. I had some bother with players in the beginning and some people would definitely try and take advantage but luckily I’m a great lip-reader! I use that to my advantage so I know when they’re swearing directly at me. They always seem surprised when I pick up on it but I like to think I’ve earned respect along the way.
Would you like to see others follow your lead?
I’ve never thought about being an inspiration to others but I like the idea. As far as I’m concerned I’m just a referee, like any other. When the game starts I’m the same as anyone else. But it’s nice to think that someone might read this and be encouraged to try refereeing themselves. My advice would be that you have to have thick skin and be impartial. And don’t take anything too personally. That’s the same for any referee. I’m human and I make mistakes. Sometimes we have bad days as referees but I think it’s always important to learn from the experiences – good and bad.
You were born and raised in London. What brought you to Scotland?
My partner lived in Scotland and was pregnant with our first child, but that was just the excuse I needed. I always wanted to live in Scotland. I have family history here. I may have been born in London but in my heart I’m Scottish.
You’ll be our first representative in the Deaf Champions League. How much does that mean to you?
I’m so proud to be representing Scotland and the Scottish FA. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’ll be my third appearance in the competition but my first on behalf of Scotland, so it feels extra special. It feels different this time. For starters, the organisation of it all has been superb but I also feel like I have renewed focus. I’ve worked really hard in the build-up to this. I’m very grateful to the Scottish FA for the support I’ve received and not just in terms of being flown to Milan. Having interpreters at the regional training sessions makes things so much easier and I want to use this weekend as a springboard to push on.