Ross Joyce

York Press: Ross Joyce Ross Joyce

ONE of the youngest referees in the professional game, Ross Joyce, wants to recruit an army of men in black to serve the York and North Yorkshire area, as he tells STEVE CARROLL.

IN the face of a shouting Scotsman, it's important to keep your cool.

Many a player and official has been on the receiving end of a tirade from former York City boss Billy McEwan - but 22-year-old man in black Ross Joyce was unmoved.

The Blue Square Premier official, who has just been appointed referee development officer at the North Riding County Football Association, felt the force of McEwan's tongue during a friendly between the Minstermen and Bradford City at KitKat Crescent in pre-season.

Joyce was labelled "facetious" by McEwan after he refused to allow midfielder Stuart Elliott back on to the pitch when he was substituted following an early head injury.

McEwan wanted to reintroduce the player at half-time, having got the all-clear from the medical staff, but Joyce cited the "Laws of Association Football", which state that players can't return following substitutions - regardless of whether the game was a friendly or not.

It's all par for the course for Joyce, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the refereeing ranks since first picking up his cards and whistle at the age of 15.

Now, he is the man charged with recruiting referees into the game in York and North Yorkshire and trying to ensure they stay there.

Last month, The Press revealed how in the Leeper Hare York and District Football League, some matches have to be played without officials - with referees abandoning the game in the face of abuse from players, managers and spectators.

In that context Joyce, who hopes one day to referee in the Premier League, has a difficult job. And he knows it.

"In the country we train 7,000 referees a year but we lose just as many," he said.

"A third of games at grass-roots level go without a qualified, registered referee and my job is to change that.

"We have to try to get people into refereeing and understand what it is about and train them."

Joyce, who took up his post at the beginning of February, will be working with local clubs and league secretaries to push the FA's National Game strategy and Respect campaign.

He's hoping to recruit referees both young and older to "give something back to the game".

"It's very important," Joyce added. "We are looking for males and females, as well as guys who have played football and want to put something back into the game.

"If we don't have referees there will be no game at the end of the day. We do find it hard to recruit because there is a mindset.

"People watch on television and they see the referees but there is a lot of support. If you are a new referee you are issued with a referee's coach, who gets you through the first part.

"They support you and come and watch games. There are training evenings, referees' association meetings and fitness training."

It was almost by accident that Joyce became a referee. The Middlesbrough-born official was playing for Cleveland Juniors when his manager revealed how short of referees the league was for games.

Joyce went on a course, refereed a cup final at the end of the year and has progressed quickly up the ladder.

As well as refereeing Blue Square Premier matches - he sent off a player in his first game (Droylsden v Salisbury) after just three minutes for a two-footed tackle - he also runs the line in the Football League as an assistant referee.

That has seen him in front of big crowds in the Championship, League One and League Two and Joyce also referees matches in the Barclays Premier reserve league. He will referee York City's visit of Woking to KitKat Crescent on Saturday.

Ambitious, he makes no secret that he would like his "hobby" to result in a career as a Barclays Premier League referee. Joyce also reckons respect in football is on the rise, despite the recent unsavoury scenes involving Ashley Cole and Javier Mascherano in England's top division.

"You have got to come across as confident, without being arrogant. I have refereed nine or ten Blue Square Premier matches and the respect you get from players and managers is great. It's a two-way thing as well. You have to remember it is their careers and their jobs," he said.

"I will keep going and work to get into the Premier League. These days, if you are young enough then it can be a career. If I can it would be great."

But for now, he is focused fully on his challenging role at the North Riding FA.

"I am looking forward to it," Joyce enthused. "It is a challenge and there is a lot of hard work to be done.

"There will be a lot changing in the coming months. As a County FA, we are trying to ensure it is as safe as possible to go out in the local leagues and referee games of football and enjoy the games. As referee development officer, I am there to support the guys."

Anyone interested in becoming a referee, or who wants to learn more about the profession, should contact Joyce at the North Riding County FA on 01642 717778 or email him at ross.joyce@northridingfa.com

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