Suffolk FA Youth Referees Academy celebrates its tenth anniversary

Some of the Referee Academy coaches Mary Harmer, Chris Dale, Paul Quick, Trevor Pollard, Andy Wildin

Some of the Referee Academy coaches Mary Harmer, Chris Dale, Paul Quick, Trevor Pollard, Andy Wilding and AJ Dale pictured at Ipswich Towns Training Ground at Playford Road - Credit: Archant

The Suffolk FA Youth Referees’ Academy is celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Academy referees on duty at Ipswich Town’s Training Ground at Playford Road on Sunday, left to right

Academy referees on duty at Ipswich Towns Training Ground at Playford Road on Sunday, left to right, Sam Gillespie, Iwan Staples-Roberts, Byron Evans, Aidan Dunne, Joe Brett, Kieren Bedford, Archie Brydon and referee coach and sponsor Andy Wilding - Credit: Archant

The Referee Academy, which supplies officials for Ipswich Town Academy matches, has come a long way in the past decade.

It is once again being sponsored by Andy Wilding of Globex Freight Management Ltd, who is also chairman of Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division side Felixstowe & Walton United.

Wilding, who has been a referee tutor for the past 12 years, said: “I got involved as sponsor four years ago as I wanted to give something back to football after all that football has given me over the years.

“I am really impressed with the whole set up. When I first became involved the referees were wearing different polo shirts, but now they all turn up and look the part and even the coaches are all in the same attire – it is very professional now.

Archie Brydon refereeing Sunday’s Under-15 Academy match between Ipswich Town and West Ham United at

Archie Brydon refereeing Sundays Under-15 Academy match between Ipswich Town and West Ham United at Ipswich Towns Training Ground at Playford Road - Credit: Archant


You may also want to watch:


“I also get some of the Academy referees to come along to Felixstowe & Walton to watch the referees at our first-team games. They sit with the match observer and can listen and learn from them as to what the referee is doing right or wrong.

“I have seen some of the of the referees develop so that they are now officiating at a good level – Level 4 or 5 – and that gives me a great deal of satisfaction.”

Most Read

Chris Pollard, who is now a Level 2B referee (National League North or South) leads the success stories of the Referee Academy. Level 3 referees (Ryman Premier) include Jon Block, George Byrne, Andy Gray, George Laflin, Abi Marriott, and Callum Walchester.

Tom Carter and Harry Scott are Level 4 referees (Eastern Counties Division One), Darren Cooley a Level 5 referee (SIL Senior) and DJ Driver, Oliver Hazell, Emily Heaslip and Dion Thorpe Level 6 referees (Junior football).

The young referees, who receive advice from coaches during and at the end of games, are grateful for the support they receive.

Adam Coombes, who is 19 and lives at Great Barton, near Bury St Edmunds, has been in the Referee Academy for four years.

He said: “Head coach Trevor Pollard recommended it to me as a great place in which to develop as a referee. It is certainly a great environment to learn in. We receive coaching at every game, which adds to your own game.

“I can also speak to the coaches about progressing my game and they advise me and recommend what is best to do to take the next step.

“I would like to push myself to go as high as I can, whether that is Conference Football or possibly the Football League.”

Fifteen-year-old Byron Evans, who lives in Copdock just outside Ipswich, said: “Being in the Referee Academy has definitely helped. When I started I was not sure about some things that I was doing, but the feedback I have received has really helped me to improve.

“It is a really good environment to learn in – you are able to make decisions without worrying what spectators are saying.”

Aidan Dunne, who is also 15 and lives in Hundon near Haverhill, joined the Referee Academy last September.

He said: “It has really improved my refereeing, especially the tips I have received about my signalling and positioning.”

Referee Academy Head Coach Trevor Pollard said: “The experience they gain from being in a disciplined environment at a professional club stands them in good stead for their refereeing future.

“They referee from under-9 through to under-15 level in the Academy and then we have a pathway through the Thurlow Nunn Under-18 Youth League and into the Thurlow Nunn Reserve League.”

Heather Trevers does an invaluable job liaising between Ipswich Town and the match officials and Andy Gray likewise as appointments officer for the referee coaches.

If you are interested in joining the Referee Academy, please contact Suffolk FA Academy Administrator Heather Trevers via heather.trevers@suffolkfa.com

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter