Craig Templeton has certainly had a refereeing season to remember

Ref - Craig TempletonCraig Templeton has created a unique niche amongst football referees in Pembrokeshire because in the 2021/22 season that has finally finished he became the first official from the county who has been honoured with selection for the Pembrokeshire League’s Senior Cup Final and the West Wales Cup Final at The Liberty Stadium in Swansea – in the same campaign.
It is a fitting compliment to a referee who only started taking charge of matches in 2015 but has been kept busy over recent times as he has officiated not only in local league games and the Haverfordwest County Academy but more recently in the newly-formed West Wales Premier League, where he travels ‘up the line’ about once a month.

Exciting time with finals aplenty

Craig learned of his appointment to the Senior Cup Final about three weeks beforehand when Ian Baker, the acting hon sec of the Manderwood Pembrokeshire League, phoned him with the special appointment – and news had previously come through from David Rees, the referees’ officer with the West Wales FA, about taking control at The Liberty Stadium for their final.
There might even have been a third appointment because Craig had received a message asking about his availability for the West Wales Premier League Cup Final but it clashed with our Senior Cup big day and so that obviously wasn’t an option because he readily admits that for him being at the Bridge Meadow Stadium was the biggest honour for a local referee.

Match officials before kick off

Great day out at The Senior Cup Final

“I must admit that I was a little nervous on match day but I think that was only because I couldn’t wait to get going – and the traditional pre-match brunch at The Friars, with so many colleagues there in support, was a great help.
“Well organised as usual by Sean O’Connor, who also provided the traditional quiz that Alan Boswell won, filled in a vital space, although I didn’t eat as much as normal – and then I strolled across to the stadium with my assistant refs Sion Jenkins and Angus Scourfield, plus fourth official Tom Bevan, had a look at the pitch, helped lead out the players for the official presentation, and then I was blowing my whistle to start the game.
“I must admit I really enjoyed the final because it was well-fought and uncompromising, but always within the spirit of the game, which was a tribute to the players and managers of Hakin United and Kilgetty.
“I only had to make one booking and afterwards I enjoyed a relaxing couple of pints with my colleagues on the day and some other refs before I went off to another important family event.”

Craigs kids watch him at The Liberty

Family matters . . .

“I walked across to Haverfordwest Station and caught the train to Swansea to join my parents Ed and Adele, plus the rest of our family, to help celebrate dad’s retirement!
“Both have been a great support to me throughout my life and I am also lucky to have total support from my wife Angela, who was a good runner in her teenage years. We have smashing children in Maisie (11), who plays football for Tenby, and Eddie (7), who plays rugby and football for Tenby, where he was thrilled last year to be voted as ‘Most Improved Player’ in his age-group team. Then there’s my stepdaughter Sarah-Jayne, who is also supportive in all I do, to complete my close family.”

Craig shows his red card


From calmness to ‘over the top’ stuff

Then from the quietly competitive Senior Cup Final it was on to the West Wales Cup Final at The Liberty Stadium between Seven Sisters Onllwyn and Trostre - and that was a different, difficult kettle of fish!
“I had reffed Trostre in the semi-final as they beat Rockspur 2-1 at Garden Village, with Sion Jenkins and Neill Crawshaw giving me excellent support as assistants - and Sion was also there for the final alongside Richard Morgan (Swansea), with another excellent former Pembrokeshire whistler in Rob Blowes as the fourth official.
“I booked five players in the first half and had to send another one off after the break, with great help from Sion and Rob, who were nearby.  It was 1-1 at full time and 2-2 after extra time before Seven Sisters won 6-5 on penalties.
“I’ve actually since watched the game over on ‘You Tube ‘and I am happy with my decisions - so fortunately it certainly wasn’t one of my ‘one in six’ moments!”

Lots of sport but injury forced a change of direction

Craig would readily admit that his current involvement is a long way from his disappointment at the early demise of his own playing days.
“As a teenager at school in Penlan I played centre half, rugby as a centre and cricket as a bit of a slogger - as well as weekly stints with three friends at table tennis and badminton.
“But all that changed dramatically when I badly damaged my ankle and so with my heavy work commitments with the police I had to stop playing all of them - and my main regret is the fact that I didn’t take up refereeing earlier.
“I had actually taken the first step by buying a rules handbook but couldn’t find a suitable course in my area at the time and for quite a while I became a season-ticket holder at Swansea City when they were playing in the Premier League.

Scratched that refereeing itch!

“But I still had that football itch that needed scratching and so I contacted Dai Rees, the West Wales FA Referees’ Officer - and although there still wasn’t a course available at the one came up nine months later in Pembrokeshire and I was on the way!
“It was taken by Pedr McMullen, who has brought so many refs into the game, but most of the participants were youngsters using it as a component in their Duke of Edinburgh  Award- and I was the only one to carry it on with refereeing in the county.
“The final session included the written test on the laws of the game and afterwards I was told I had passed - so I contacted Brian Hawkins, the secretary of the Pembrokeshire Football League, and I was soon in charge of my first game, which was between the second teams of Prendergast Villa and Saundersfoot,

Proud match officials with their cup final medals

Interesting start and lots of good advice from other whistlers

“That was in 2015 and I remember that I had difficulty finding the changing rooms before Villa won with a late goal - and afterwards I was asked what my expenses were and I was so naive that I didn’t even know I was entitled to them!
“But I really enjoyed being part of the game and since then I have been given lots of help and good advice - especially when attending meeting of the Pembrokeshire Referees’ Society because it provides a great monthly forum where experienced refs are always ready to give advice.
Since he started out in his refereeing, Craig has rarely missed a weekend since and as well as taking charge of local games he also enjoys his participation in the West Wales Premier League, which is usually about once a month.

“At the moment there are no Pembrokeshire Clubs involved but I can see a time when there will be because some of them are well capable of holding their own.

Different system with West Wales Premier

“One difference with regard to West Wales Premier referees is that clubs have to provide feedback on officials’ performances and although it is often not liked in some parts because there might be negative comments if teams lose but overall I have found club assessors to be fair and their thoughts useful.
“I was in charge of one big game between two of the top sides in in South Gower and Seven Sisters Onllwyn which was very competitive, to say the least and South Gower lost 3-2 after I had awarded a 93rd-minute penalty against them from which Seven Sisters Onllwyn lost.
“Of course they were disappointed by a home defeat in such a vital match but when I read their report I thought it was very positive, balanced and fair.”

Learning all about assistant refereeing

Craig has also been involved with the Haverfordwest County Academy squad at The Bridge Meadow Stadium where the likes of Carmarthen, Port Talbot and Taffs Well have visited and he had been in the middle or as an assistant referee, something which was again part of his learning curve.
Ask Craig about the pandemic and he would readily admit that he badly missed his football and so he was delighted when the game returned to something like normality after Covid when he reffed Mumbles versus Penlan in the FA Trophy and then a week later took charge of the Goodwick United versus Hakin United match in the same competition.
“It was a hell of a match,” Craig told, “which Hakin won 2-1 with a late goal that the opposition felt was ‘debateable’, but Goodwick boss Wayne O’Sullivan took in the right spirit after we had a chat and I explained why I had taken my decision.
“He and Scott Davies (Hakin) typify what is right about local managers and when I always pop in the bar for a pint afterwards I never mind a chat about decisions, as long as we can quietly agree to disagree afterwards!”

And finally . . .

At 42, Craig is happy to continue as a referee for the foreseeable future and at some time would welcome a role where he could mentor newcomers and put his experience to good effect.
Perhaps one piece of good advice might be that matches are not always straightforward, however, because he still has what he calls his ‘one in six’ matches where he asks himself what he is doing there – but quickly moves on because he knows he is giving his best and that is all that matters for every referee!

Tom Bevan, Craig Templeton, Angus Scourfield and Sion Jenkins