Surrey FA Match Official

This Is Surrey Football: Jim Paterson

As part of our #ThisIsSurreyFootball campaign, we spoke to recently retired referee, Jim Paterson who officiated for 40 years.

Until recently, Jim was the oldest active match official at a senior level (Level 3) in the country at the age of 65.

Jim enjoyed a successful 40 years with the whistle in hand, officiating on many local games whilst sending out a message in recent years to everyone, that age isn't a barrier to participation.

To celebrate his achievements, we spoke to Jim about his many years of experience as a referee, his most memorable moment across this incredible period of time of officiating, and the health benefits it has provided to him.

Jim also offers his advice to active referees on how to stay fit and officiate as late into life as he did.


When did you start your journey as a referee?

‘I qualified in Scotland on 1st April 1980.’

What made you want to become a referee all those years ago?

‘I used to train with a semi-professional team which a friend of mine managed. Watching games was enjoyable but I wanted more involvement as I didn’t play anymore. There was a FIFA referee in the village I grew up in and after talking with him I decided to take up the whistle.’

What was your most memorable moment as a referee?

‘I have had a lot of great times over the past 40 years and some not so great. I always enjoyed refereeing local derbies at Christmas and Easter and had some good memories with them. Refereeing my County Cup final was an extremely proud moment, especially as it came late in my career, an injury having prevented me doing it earlier.

I also want to thank the many great people I have met over the past 40 years, with some enduring friendships. There is one truth; whenever you have a difficult match, you are not unique. There is always someone who you can turn to and hear some consoling words [from].’

What have the health benefits of refereeing been to you?

‘I have always been relatively sporty, but refereeing demanded a higher and [more] consistent level of fitness which kept me mentally and physically sharp. There is no better feeling than running around for 90 minutes and being completely knackered at the end, having played your part in a good game of football.’

I understand that you were the oldest referee still active at a senior level (Level 3) in the country, what were the secrets to your longevity? Did you face physical challenges or any dissent from players due to your age?

‘I never really thought much about my age, it was more how I conducted myself during the game. In the final few years I did suffer more from injuries and that was when age mattered, it took longer to recover and more niggly injuries turned up. I don’t think I finished a season in the final five years, age did affect my recurring injuries.

I have never had great issue with dissent, it doesn’t mean players didn’t moan. I was always a talker on the pitch and man management is so important. Getting older only helped, I never felt under any pressure and I think this was evident in my refereeing style. Some clubs liked me, some didn’t, I never let it affect me. You can’t worry about what people think, you have to be able to take the criticism with the plaudits.’

What advice would you give to active referees on staying fit and officiating for as long as you did?

‘Being fit is the most important aspect in refereeing. You cannot make good decisions if you’re off the pace. Players know it, managers know it and if you’re honest, you know it.

Enjoyment is key, I couldn’t have kept at it so long if I hadn’t enjoyed it. It got harder, physically, every year passing the fitness test, I must have done about 35. Getting pulled round the track by younger referees was fun, the hard slog before the test not so [much].’


Interested in becoming a match official? To find out how to start your own journey in refereeing, click here.