Photo Source PGMOL
For the first time, in a professional English Football League game an all-military team will take charge of the game.
As part of Remembrance weekend, todays League One game between Cambridge United and Bolton Wanderers will involve match officials from our Armed forces.
Darren Drysdale who is a Sergeant in the RAF, will be the man in the middle and he will be joined by his two assistant referees, the Army’s Corporal Declan O’Shea and Captain Steve Finch. The Royal Navy’s Chief Petty Officer Scott Jackson will be fourth official.
A poppy wreath will be laid at the edge of the centre circle in a ceremony before kick-off, to be followed by a minute’s silence and the playing of the Last Post.
Assistant referee O’Shea said: “We are all indebted to the Army, RAF and Royal Navy for the amount of support we have all received to allow us to reach the professional level on the football pyramid, whilst also being on rotations for deployments and operations.
“There will be something quite moving stood shoulder to shoulder during the pre-match ceremonies with guys that have lived through and felt the emotion of sacrifice on operations.
“It will be a special moment. But shortly after, when the first whistle goes, it’s business as usual.”
Remembrance Weekend, which coincides with the anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War One on 11 November 1918, will be marked at sporting fixtures all across the UK this weekend.
And King Charles will lead the nation’s tributes to those who have fallen in various armed conflicts around the world at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, on Sunday morning.
The four officials have a combined total of 98 and a half years of service.
“The camaraderie within a team of match officials is akin to that which is shared in the armed forces,” said referee Drysdale, a 34-year veteran who was involved in the conflict in Iraq in 2003.
“The closeness of a team and the shared end target in being the best you can be correlates to both environments.”
Scott Jackson added: “Remembrance Weekend is a poignant time when the nation comes together and respects those who have served, serve now and ultimately the ones who have given their lives for their country.
“A tri-service team of match officials has never been appointed on a game together – there’s no better weekend than Remembrance for it to happen for the first time.”
Scott is also a Ref Support UK referee coach and gives up his spare time to help referees.
Martin Cassidy CEO of the registered Charity Ref Support UK who helps and support referees independently from The FA said “ This really is a great way to recognise the role the military plays in football and sport in general, we are blessed to have some top quality match officials who are in our Armed Forces and we are privileged to have Scott as one of our referee coaches. His knowledge is vital in helping the next generation of match officials.
We also have Dave Ricketts as one of our referee coach’s who was in the Welsh Guards and was on The Sir Galahad when it was bombed during the Falklands War. In addition to Scott and Dave, we also have Phil Prosser who was in the RAF and gave service during the Gulf War.
Phil Prosser former RAF
Dave Ricketts former Welsh Guard
I am honoured, Martin continued, to have these individuals as part of RSUK and will forever be in debt to their help and support they give me personally as well as our Charity.
It must also be noted that sport is also blessed with military veterans who continue to give their time up to officiate games across the world. Their service should never be underestimated.
At this time, we all remember the fallen and injured in their duty defending our great nation and we are forever in debit to many.”