Durham County FA Referee Development Officer Sebastian Stockbridge was the man in charge of this seasons Papa John's Trophy Final at Wembley which seen League One Rotherham United face League Two Sutton United.
Seb has kindly participated in a Question and Answer regarding how he felt before during and after the final as well as some very good advice to any other young aspiring referees who want to follow Seb's footsteps.
Q: How did you find out about the appointment and how did you
A: Mike Jones the NGR manager
attempted to call me at 10.30am but I missed his call being at work. So I tried
to call him back to no avail, he then rang back about 15 minutes later. He
tried to be funny with me asking about my availability etc.. then asked if I
was free on the 3rd April and I asked him what was happening that day? We both
knew what was happening and he asked if I would like to referee the final. It
was a tad overwhelming but very exciting!
Q: Any behind the scenes secrets from Wembley?
A: Haha, none that I found but it is massive!! We were
fortunate enough to have a look around on the Saturday and the size and quality
of the team changing rooms and other areas are second to none.
Q: How did you celebrate after the match?
A: With a good massage from Barry who was our therapist all
weekend! All the officials and their partners were taken out by PGMOL director
Mike Jones to a lovely restaurant in Ealing where we enjoyed a post match meal
Q: Did you get nervous before the game?
A: Yeah of course who wouldn’t be, to referee a TV final at the
home of football is a massive occasion for any match official. It was a mix of
nervous and excitement to accomplish a major refereeing goal but also wanting
it to go well too.
Q:Did you keep preparations the same?
A: On the Saturday we visited Wembley to get our bearings and
enjoy the experience of the venue, but come Sunday it was game time and I went
about the pre-game preparation in as much the same way as any other game with
safety briefing, team sheets, pre-game briefing with my colleagues and warm up.
Q: How did it feel refereeing at the home of football?
A: It was awesome!! The whole experience and weekend was
something special. Obviously its always sweeter when the game goes well from a
refereeing point of view as we can then relax as we are there to do a job.
Q: Physically how demanding was it, given the big pitch and
A: Not only was it physically demanding but also mentally too
due to the emotions and demands required to concentrate and for so long. I was
drained after but had a great post game massage and were able to mentally
decompress after and take it all in what we had accomplished as a team.
Q: How did it feel officiating in front of a big crowd?
A: It was great to have all the fans from both teams in the
lower bowl at Wembley it added to such a great atmosphere. Walking out was such
a proud moment with such a great atmosphere.
Q: Where has he put his
A: My match medal along with the match ball is sitting proudly
in my man cave with my other refereeing achievements.
Q: What is the process to be chosen to referee a cup final?
A: Mike Jones, PGMOL NGR director made the appointments for the
final at it was based around our merit table positions that we are ranked on
throughout the season.
Q: How important as a referee is it to have a support network
around you? Who has helped you to get to where you are in refereeing today?
A: It is vital to be able to succeed, the support I have had
from my wife, Nichola and my parents Ivor and Lesley as well as my close
friends, colleagues and coaches such as fellow referee David Webb, has been
amazing they have always been there for me through the lows and highs. Being
able to have such great support is crucial within the refereeing world and
without these people I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
Q: What would your message be to any aspiring match officials?
A: Be the best you can be and treat every game as a cup final.
Work hard and leave it all on the green stuff, you only get one chance so give
it your all. There will be difficult times so make sure to have a great team
around you and learn from the failures and celebrate your successes.