Durham FA Referee Michael Oliver Will Walk Out For The Second Time As An FA Cup Final Referee At Wembley As Well As Officiate At Euro 2020.
Michael took the time to chat with RDO Alex Clark to discuss his appointments, advice for referees and experiences of his journey so far.
Alex: Michael, first of all congratulations on another FA Cup Final appointment, can you sum up how you felt on receiving the news, especially considering you have already officiated an FA Cup Final before?
Michael: Delighted first and foremost. It wasn’t a call I was expecting, having already refereed the 2018 final. But obviously it is a fantastic phonecall to receive, an honour to have the opportunity and a day I am looking forward to.
Alex: How do you think your experiences of refereeing a previous FA Cup Final will help you this time round?
Michael: I obviously will understand the pressure that comes with it, but the 2021 final will be very different to the 2018 time. Its great that we will have some fans back in, so we will need to re-adjust to that once again, but the weekend will be different, there is no big programme of events to attend (eve of final rally, celebration meals with partners and families, the whole sense of the full FA Cup Final weekend), but ultimately it’s the match that matters so we will try to use our experience to perform that levels we expect of ourselves.
Alex: In addition, you found out that you have been selected to officiate at Euro 2020 just a matter of days later. Can you sum up the emotions of the week?
Michael: It was certainly the best week of my refereeing career. To have the call for the FA Cup Final and then confirmation of selection for Euro 2020 in the space of 24 hours was a bit of a whirlwind. The first one hadn’t sunk in when the second one came.
Alex: Some our Durham FA Referees have been in touch with questions. Level 7 Referee Chris Shield asks, can you describe your journey to the top and what challenges you faced to get there?
Michael: I started as a junior referee, then progressed to Level 7 and through the levels from there. All based in local grassroots football before progressing into the professional game. I have gone through the same promotion levels as everyone else, I was just fortunate that I had a lot of luck along the way that meant I was able to do it relatively quickly.
Alex: Level 4 Referee Jack Arrowsmith asks what you think the most challenging moments are as a referee?
Michael: I think they change game by game. Sometimes the games we think are the ‘easiest’ and will be the most simple will catch us out. Equally the games that we expect to be a real battle sometimes aren’t, so for me it is important to prepare the same way for each match and expect to have to referee well. The match turns out to be easier then that is a bonus, but it’s a lot easier that way around than expecting it to be easier than it turns out to be. It is often difficult when you know, or have a sense, you have made a mistake, but its important to remember that its only one decision and you have to quickly move onto the next one so it doesn’t become a second mistake, and then third.
Alex: In order to ensure that you are up with demands of the game, and in top condition ahead of the game what will your training programme look like in the week leading up to the FA Cup Final and how have you had to adapt your training for the national lockdown periods?
Michael: We are fortunate to have access to a great time of Sports Scientists who provide tailored weekly training plans. It will be based mainly around that, but they know what we like to do. In a typical week, I prefer to work hard early in the week (Tuesday & Wednesday) then rest Thursday before a short but sharp speed session the day before the game. That particular week we will be on a Euro 2020 preparation course so it may be slightly different but the quality of the sessions will remain the same. Training during lockdown has been different as we haven’t been to a face-to-face training camp in over 12 months. I have a gym at home, so I’ve been able to do work there and plenty of pitch sessions locally.
Alex: You referee regularly in the Premier League and so are familiar with the teams and their styles of play, how do you prepare for European and International games when you are less familiar with the teams?
Michael: UEFA provide team analysts so in Champions League and Europa League matches we are able to study the teams in advance. We also have access to a programme called WyScout where we can watch any match in the world, or search for particular situations during games, so we are able to do research before the match to allow us to be fully prepared. If you put the work in before the match, then nothing should come as a surprise.
Alex: Specialist Assistant Referee Stephen Beresford asks, you have previously officiated in the 2019 Under 20 FIFA World Cup. How much do you think this previous experience of refereeing international tournament football will help you for Euro 2020?
Michael: Tournaments are very different as you are there for a lot longer than you are for a single match. Having been to Under 20 WC (2019) and Under 17 WC (2015), as well as UEFA U19 European Championships, you learn what to expect. There is a lot of time to fill, and you spend a lot of time with the same people so its important you work well as a team on and off the field, and know what makes each other tick. Its important to get into a routine so you have structure to the days as it helps to keep you focused.
Alex: Euro 2020 will take place over multiple countries and is likely to be a unique experience. Do you know how this will work from a refereeing perspective? Will you be situated in just one or two countries or will you move around the whole of Europe?
Michael: We will be based all together in one city, and then flying to wherever our matches are, before returning to base camp. It helps to have a single base and is easier to co-ordinate for everyone. Its also easier to stick to the Covid guidelines and I know a lot of work goes into making sure everyone is safe.
Alex: How did you get involved in refereeing and if you could provide one bit of advice to anyone looking to take up the whistle, what would it be?
Michael: My father was a referee and I wanted a change from playing. I never intended to stay as a referee, but thought I would try for a bit of a change. I think its worked out alright in the end! In terms of advice, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – everyone does - , just think about why you made it and try not to make the same one again
Alex: Michael, thanks for taking the time to chat and share with us your thoughts ahead of your second FA Cup Final and Euro 2020.
All at Durham FA wish Michael the very best of luck in the FA Cup Final and Euro 2020.
If you have been inspired to get involved in refereeing please contact RDO Alex Clark on Alex.Clark@DurhamFA.com or 0191 3872929 (opt 2, opt 6)