Football

Champion-Ship Official: Meet The Navy Referee Rising Up The Football Pyramid

Petty Officer Scott Jackson recently made his Championship debut as a fourth official.

Petty Officer Scott Jackson "thought it was a joke" when he found out he would be making his Championship debut as an official.

The Royal Navy officer has been climbing the ladder as an FA-certified official and appeared as a fourth official on the opening day of the 2019/20 season at Swansea City.

PO Jackson called it a "phenomenal" day, and is learning plenty as a referee in the Premier League 2 reserve division this year.

While PO Jackson may be enjoying his refereeing career now, it is not something he thought he would end up doing.

"That was never the intention," he said.

"I was thrown in there and that was it from day one. I couldn’t stay away from it.

"I’m fortunate in my job that I am shore-based and I don’t tend to deploy on the whole. My bosses are very accommodating and very supportive.

"I’ve just been accepted on to the Elite Sportsman route which is a relief. I’m supported by the Navy command hierarchy and my organisation."

The official has worked in both military football and the civilian side of the game and explained the differences for a referee.

"I think the early transition comes at grassroots level.

"Military football is very disciplined and even if the worst was to happen, you have some kind of accountability with chains of command that you can approach. You can always track them down.

"When you go out on the field of play on a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning at the lower level, that’s where the difference is.

"You are coming across people from all walks of life with total disregard for you sometimes."

The Navy officer was speaking before taking charge of a Premier League 2 match at Southampton FC's training ground.

When speaking about his Championship debut, PO Jackson was unable to believe it happened.

He said: "It was absolutely phenomenal.

"When you said it then, I got a shiver down my spine. I just could not believe it. To see it come in on a Monday afternoon was just unreal.

"I thought it was a joke. After ten minutes, the assistant referee said his calf had gone so I was warming up down the touchline.

"It’s three years since I have been an assistant referee or a linesman as people would know. I was almost on ten minutes into the game.

"Luckily, that didn’t happen but it is a day that nobody can take away from me.

"I’ve officiated in the Championship."

One of the difficulties of taking charge of a Premier League 2 match is looking after some possibly disgruntled first-team players who are disappointed to be playing in a reserves match.

However, as PO Jackson explained, those players can be targets for the younger sportsmen.

He said: "You’ve got to have empathy, but you can’t favour any players. I cast my mind back to when Virgil Van Dijk was playing and one of my friends was on the line.

"One of the youngsters tried to make a name for themselves and go in on him. This was a couple of weeks before he signed for Liverpool and you just can’t have it.

"You can’t have it when it is any other pro, but never mind somebody who is in the shop window and trying to make a name for themselves.

"It’s about being empathetic but also using that experience to help you manage the game. If there is some young players who tend to be a bit irate or losing their heads, you say to old pros to work with me and sort him out.

"It’s often that they won’t be the captain but they can be very influential out there to the youngsters."

As a younger referee, PO Jackson may tackle the issue of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) during his career. He is excited to deal with it.

"If they are pulling through officials to do the VAR, they are naturally going to pull more referee and assistants through the system which excites me in all honesty," he said.