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News Archive > Sport > Annear picks up the whistle after ending playing career

Annear picks up the whistle after ending playing career

By Tom Howe 17th February 2021

Annear picks up the whistle after ending playing career
Will Annear tells the Voice: “I’ve definitely made some really good friends through refereeing. It’s important that we all see each other as colleagues within football.”

Local referee Will Annear hopes his success story can encourage more ex-footballers to take up the whistle after hanging up their boots, writes Tom Howe.

Annear, 32, works as an estate agent during the week but, come the weekend, devotes his time to Cornish football.

Beginning his playing career aged just 16, he spent the next 14 years plying his trade in junior leagues across the county and was equally adept on the wing or at full-back. Having won the Duchy Premier League and Junior Cup with St Stephen, Annear took a step back from playing to complete his basic referee’s course in November of 2019.

Since then, he has been enrolled into the Football Association’s Centre of Refereeing Excellence programme, providing him an opportunity to progress into the role of senior county referee, meaning he is able to officiate at St Piran level and below as a referee and in the South West Peninsula (SWP) as an assistant.

“I got into refereeing after finding myself struggling to play at the standard I’d been used to,” Annear told the Voice, before joking: “I’d also spent the previous 14 years giving referees grief on the pitch so thought I’d better see if I could do the job myself.

“Since then I’ve really enjoyed it. It keeps me out of the house at the weekend and I get to maintain that social side of football with friends that I’ve made over the years through the game. It also looks like I might be a better referee than I ever was a player.

“The refereeing community in Cornwall is really important in supporting each other. The Referees Association and the County FA help with functions and guest speakers - in non-covid times.

“You get to know each other through the games you do together and it’s nice to see some friendly faces when others have had games postponed. We’ve managed to maintain an aspect of that through the pandemic thanks to Lee Swabey’s efforts with some virtual training sessions where we all meet up [virtually] to cover topics, learn from each other and have a bit of a laugh.

“I’ve definitely made some really good friends through refereeing and I think it’s important that we all see each other as colleagues within football.”

Annear admitted he was ‘massively missing football’ during lockdown, before explaining: “It’s been my primary source of exercise and socialising for the last 16 years and it’s tough not having it to look forward to. I’ve managed to get in 22 games since the season started in September but obviously haven’t had a game since January.

“While the income from refereeing is nice, it’s not why I do it. It pays for a takeaway at the weekend but you’re never going to get rich from refereeing at my level. It’s more about enjoyment and involvement for me.

“In terms of tips and advice to any aspiring referees, I’d love to see more ex-players get involved.

“I found it a nice transition from playing by starting off only officiating when I didn’t have a fixture.

“Having that playing experience gave me a head start in terms of reading the game a little easier and knowing ‘what football expects’.”

Trelawny League secretary, David James, recently said, in an interview with this very newspaper, that if he fixtures in 20 games, he probably only has 15 that go ahead due to a shortage of referees.

“If I try to get a full programme in,” he said, “we are eight, nine or ten games short.”

“It’s not necessarily noticed at the higher end of the Cornish football ladder,” argued Annear.

“The SWP will always have three officials per game; the real effect is at the bottom of the ladder in the Duchy and Trelawny leagues. There’s very few weeks where every game has a fully qualified official at that level which is a real shame. It was a big factor in why I chose to get into refereeing after playing as the level I played at was hugely affected by the shortage.

“In terms of what can be done, it’s difficult during covid as the practical sessions really are vital in the training of new referees. Once we’re able to I’m confident the County FA will have a plan to recruit, train and retain new referees. I’d like to see a real focus on ex-players though, as the ones that have gone into refereeing have done a great job.”

He continued: “I think the online drop in sessions that Lee has organised during lockdown have been great and it’d be nice to see something similar continue. I’m fortunate to have the CORE program to enhance the support and training available to me.

“It would be great to see more players and clubs making the effort to gain a better understanding of the laws of the game and how decisions are reached.

“The drop in sessions have been open to everyone and it’d be nice to see more non-referees get involved. I’ve had a lot of positive moments during my short refereeing career. It’s always nice when players and managers make the effort to say thank you after a game and offer praise where it’s due.

“A personal highlight is probably being told by a close friend that I was ‘a lot less annoying’ than he expected after officiating in a game he played in - high praise from him. In terms of my style of refereeing, I tend to take quite a relaxed approach to it all to be honest.

“I think it’s important to have a bit of a laugh and joke with the players when possible and show that referees are human too - we do smile occasionally.

“Having said that, we have to find the right balance between being relaxed and authoritative and ensure we’re still upholding the laws of the game.”

By Tom Howe 17th February 2021

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