Referee in the Spotlight

Gavin Muge provides an insight into his development and experiences so far in refereeing.

Gavin Muge provides an insight into his development and experiences so far in refereeing.

Name: Gavin Muge

When did you qualify as a referee?
I took the course in Autumn 1984 when I was 14 years old, 40 years ago! It was every Monday night at the old Challney School site in Luton with an eye test and written exam at the end. I passed and became a ‘Youth Class’ Referee. My first actual game as a referee was In the New Year of 1985 in the Chiltern Youth League. 

What are your early refereeing memories?
Lots of happy memories, being young, fit and loving football was a great starting point. The match fees in the Chiltern Youth League were £4.00 per game and that used to last me all week, prices were a lot cheaper back then!

I used to watch Luton on a Saturday and referee on a Sunday, perfect although a pity schoolwork needed doing too. There was lots of fun travelling to games, running around being involved, getting paid and not having to work in a supermarket like my friends at school.
My first Cup Final was as a Assistant Referee in October 1986 for the Jim Restall Trophy Final and my first as a Referee was the Chiltern Youth League 9-11 League Cup Final in May 1987. My first Bedfordshire FA County Cup Final was as Assistant Referee in April 1991 for the Under 14 Final.

Have you faced any challenges and how have you overcome them?
In Autumn 1991 I must have been very mixed up because I wanted to be a player again so I actually stopped refereeing for a while and I joined a Sunday morning team. Looking back now it feels like an itch I needed to scratch. This mindset stayed with me until 1995 when I was a little more mature and realised that playing wasn’t the best way for me to be involved in the game. I then reregistered as a ‘Class 3’ Referee and started again, at the bottom!

My knee injury I got when I was 17 has always been an issue. I’ve had 4 operations on it over the years and need to keep it as active as possible otherwise it just won’t work. This meant lots of exercises, treatment, physio, insoles in my boots, strapping sometimes and ultimately accepting that I just can’t run as fast as I want to. I did my best with it and that is all you can do. 

Like all referees I’ve had bad games and horrible incidents to deal with. Today there is much more support available for people to ensure that they can enjoy their role in the game.

Do you have any career highlights to date?
There have been quite a number, here are a few:

  • 250 games in the Football League
  • 9 seasons as a National List Assistant Referee
  • 10 seasons as a Contributory League referee
  • Cup Final Medals from
    - The FA
    - The Premier League
    - The Football League
    - Women’s Super League
  • International Game in August 2008 – England U17 v Italy U17
  • League 1 Play Off Semi Final 2013 – Assistant Referee

What skills have you learned through refereeing?
Lots of people skills, communication skills, resilience, patience, tolerance, fitness training techniques, diet and nutrition good practice and overall health and wellbeing.

Why did you take up refereeing?
It was the best way to increase my involvement in the game as a teenager and it meant that I could be accountable for myself and my actions. It was up to me to do my very best and I found that very motivational.

Who is the biggest influence on your refereeing career?

I was always aware of the top-level officials when I started out and I wanted to get to their level, people like Keith Hackett, Neil Midgley and Clive Thomas. My best season on the National List was the one season I had a coach Paul Canadine, I don’t think that was a coincidence.

What are your future goals and ambitions in refereeing?
Keep enjoying it and I hope I have a couple more seasons left, after that who knows? In July 2023 I went to the Iber Cup Cascais to be an Observer and covered over 20 matches. This July I’m going to the Gothia Cup again as an Observer. I never wanted to be an Assessor so the coaching/development route is much more suited to me and how I can help others. 

Do you support a football team?
I went to my first Luton game in 1978 and have supported them ever since. When I was on the National List you declared your team and you were kept away from them deliberately. I did officiate on some of their pre-season friendly matches as that was non-competitive. It was very special to be part of matches at Kenilworth Road. 

Interesting Fact away from football?
A fact still linked to football is that I wrote a book that was published in November 2022 called My Life On The Line. Away from football a fact I like is that I played basketball with George Bush when I worked as a Counsellor on a summer camp in New York in 1989.

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.