Alex Francioni provides an insight into his development and experiences so far in refereeing.
Name: Alex Francioni
When did you qualify as a referee?
I did my FA Referee Course in August 2014, completing my first game a month later in September. This is now my 10th season in the middle.
What are your early refereeing memories?
My earliest memories include my first ever game after my referee course, in the Bedfordshire Youth Saturday League (Luton Allstars Tigers v Bushmead Rovers White on 27th September 2014) as well as my first ever adult game, in Division 3 of the Bedfordshire County Football League (FC Serbia Bedford v Flitwick Town Reserves on 3rd January 2015). I was also fortunate enough to represent Bedfordshire FA and referee an U13 football match between Arsenal and Colchester United at the Arsenal Youth Academy in north London at the end of my first season.
Have you faced any challenges and how have you overcome them?
Challenges in refereeing come from all different directions (not just on the field of play!). Long-term injury is always a challenge, and I had a persistent foot injury back in 2017, which resulted in me having an operation and losing out on potential promotion that year as well as my place on FA CORE. To overcome things like this, you just need to have a positive mentality and keep working hard to be rewarded later down the line.
Do you have any career highlights to date?
In addition to recently gaining my promotion to Level 3, my career highlights so far include being appointed to referee both the Bedfordshire FA Senior Trophy Cup Final and the Spartan South Midlands Football League Premier Division Cup Final at the end of season 2022-23. This was topped off with winning the ‘Referee of the Year’ award, completing a great season for me!
What skills have you learned through refereeing?
I have learned several skills through refereeing both on and off the pitch. I have certainly learned how to communicate under pressure as well as be diplomatic about decisions and incidents in a boardroom. I have also learned that referees are only human, and we will all make mistakes. What sets us above the rest, is how we reflect on the mistake and how we make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Why did you take up refereeing?
I was asked to referee a football match at university when the referee didn’t arrive and I was the only spectator present! I really enjoyed it (despite wearing shirt and trousers on the pitch!) and a few of the players told me I wasn’t “that bad”, so I decided to do the FA Referee Course.
Who is the biggest influence on your refereeing career?
It would be easy to say the name of a Premier League referee here, however, I am fortunate enough to have been invited back to FA CORE this season and I now have an FA coach, who has a massive influence on me. As well as this, other referees at similar levels to me are heavily influential and I have always enjoyed watching how other people tackle games, situations, and scenarios. I’d never hear the end of it from some of them though if I mentioned their names here!
What are your future goals and ambitions in refereeing?
The obvious answer here is to progress as far as I can, hopefully into the professional game at some point. The most important thing for me is to make sure, that whatever happens, I enjoy it along the way. I have made some lifelong friends in refereeing and learned a lot about my own (and others!) character which will stand me in good stead whatever happens.
Do you support a football team?
Fortunately (or unfortunately!) I support Arsenal. Not much more to say on this one!
Each month, Bedfordshire FA will celebrate the hard work of individuals and clubs. The Spotlight feature will give you an insight into the various roles that are held within football. These will include a range of volunteers, referees, clubs and those making football happen behind the scenes.