WHEN I mention I am a referee, people say it must be the most thankless task in football, why do you do it?

We know why many young referees take it up, because they tell us, it the money.

A 14-year-old, refereeing a couple of Saturday Under 12 matches, can earn £40.

‘Better than doing a paper round,’ one young referee told me.

But why do many referees go on doing it for years?

A large percentage of referees are over 50.

Older readers who played football locally may remember Malcolm Freemantle, who refereed Reading leagues for many years and then suddenly gave it up.

However, within a short space of time he was back refereeing.

‘Why,’ I asked him. ‘I’m not sure,’ he said, ‘but it’s like a drug, it’s addictive, you can’t give it up.'

Addictive perhaps, but I got a better explanation last year while refereeing at Thatcham.

On the next pitch was Paul Armstrong, a former Football League referee, who was refereeing an U15 girls match.

I’d been out with Paul on occasions and to my mind, he is the best referee I have run the line to.

‘Why are we still doing it,’ I asked. ‘I believe it’s good for you,’ was his reply, ‘not just the physical exercise but the mental stimulus. Not only are you having to make many instant decisions, you also have to maintain your concentration throughout the entire match’.

Another referee I mentioned earlier in the season when football countries not affiliated to FIFA introduced a green card was Doug Cook, who has been refereeing for more than 60 years.

He is well known in Newbury’s Sunday League for his three cards, all of which has a message for players written on it.

The green card says THINK, the yellow card BEWARE and the red card says simply GO.

A thankless task? Well not always, for Bradfield College recently gave Doug a celebratory dinner, plus a portrait of himself, as a thank you for 37 years of refereeing their matches.