Lancashire FA referees Emily Carney and Abby Dearden were recently selected to represent the Football Association at the Premier League Remembrance tournament held in Ypres, Belgium to commemorate 100 year anniversary of the end of World War One.
The tournament took place between the 1st and 4th December and featured eight U18’s Female teams, all of which are involved in the Premier League Community Programme. Teams included the likes of Burnley FC, Manchester United and Manchester City.
During the four day experience, Emily and Abby officiated in numerous matches as well as paying their respects to the fallen of the First World War with visits to Passchendaele (site of the 3rd Battle of Ypres), Langemark (German Military Cemetary), the Tyne Cot Memorial (largest war memorial in the world) and also the Football Truce Memorial which is the famous location of where soldiers of all Army’s stopped military combat to play football on Christmas Day during the war.
Day One of the visit began with the referees travelling over to Belgium via coach in the company of some of the teams participating in the tournament which gave them the opportunity to build relationships prior to the fixtures commencing.
In the evening after arriving in Belgium, the officials then met up with the rest of the group who would be taking part in the tournament, before being given a pre-tournament briefing about what to expect.
Day Two then consisted of visiting the above sites along with the teams to learn about the events and sacrifices made during the First World War before conducting their final preparations ahead of the matches.
The 3rd and 4th days saw the tournament matches begin with each of the officials refereeing nine matches each, providing them with the opportunity to develop their refereeing skills and learn new attributes which they can introduce into their refereeing performances back in Lancashire.
After the completion of the group stage fixtures, Abby Dearden was then selected to referee the tournament final between Brighton & Hove Albion and Manchester City with the south coast side winning 4-1.
Following the end of the tournament, there was a final opportunity to visit Menin Gate, which is a memorial dedicated to the missing British & Commonwealth soldiers who had no known resting places.
Speaking of her experience, Emily Carney said: “This tournament was a fantastic opportunity for me and one that I really enjoyed."
"It has helped me a lot in terms of speaking to people and developing my communication skills which will benefit me when refereeing back in England. I loved every minute of the experience and feel like I have grown as both a person and also as a referee.”
Abby Dearden also added “Overall it was a brilliant four days."
"The organisation by the teams and tournament was brilliant and the hospitality couldn't have been more welcoming. Along with coming away and speaking to the players, I feel like me, Yaz and Emily have also walked away with a bigger bond not just as a refereeing team but also as friends."
"Personally, I feel that growing as a team was one of the most beneficial parts for me throughout this trip.”
Lancashire FA Referee Development Officer Lewis Smith said “To be selected for such an important tournament on behalf of the national Football Association is a fantastic achievement for both Emily and Abby and as a county FA we are extremely proud of them."
"Their commitment and dedication to refereeing is second to none and they continue to be fantastic role-models for all referees within Lancashire, therefore I was delighted when I heard the good news regarding their invitations."
Lewis added: "I have no doubt that having been a part of such an experience, Emily and Abby will have learnt a great deal and their refereeing careers will continue to progress, but that they will also benefit as individuals having experienced first-hand the sacrifices made during the First World War. This tournament and experience highlights the opportunities that are available in refereeing both on and off the field of play, and for two of our referees to be involved with it can only be beneficial for the county.”
If you would like to know about how you can get into refereeing then contact the Referee’s Department on 01772 624 000 or alternatively you can visit the Referee’s section of our website.