Martin loves his role as a Pembrokeshire football referee

Max, Martin and Olly Jones 

  The Manderwood Pembrokeshire Football League is always on the look-out for new referees and has often said to people that being in the middle with a whistle in your hand is often the next best thing to playing – and someone who would agree with us is Martin Jones, who is now in his second season of reffing and enjoying it after starting out as a player with Fishguard Sports junior section at 15.
Now 46, he played for many years in senior football with Letterston and then at Haverfordwest Cricket Club before what he describes as ‘dodgy knees’ caused him to end his playing days

Decided it was time to put something back into his game

“I started out reffing Letterston 2nds and Newport (Pembs) in the lower divisions when they were short of a match official and so I decided I would devote more attention to the role and become a qualified referee.
“I had a chat with Brian Hawkins, who was then Hon Secretary of the league, and he put me on the right road to applying. I had to take the written part of the course on-line because of the pandemic and I thought I knew the laws of the game well,” he told us, “but soon found there was a lot I didn’t know so a little bit of swatting up was in order.

Martin with another Letterston legend Brian Mathias

Passed his refs’ exam in Newport (Gwent)

“Then it was off to Newport (Gwent), which was the nearest place available to take the practical exam and a fitness test, which was harder than I thought it might have been because the instructors enjoyed running us ragged - and then I joined ten other would-be referees in looking at a series of tricky situations and having to say what you would do.
“I was the only one from Pembrokeshire there so it was a bit nerve-wracking but we soon got into the swing of things and I enjoyed it after that – and when I received my certificate which was signed by Jonathan Ford (chief executive of the Welsh FA) and Kieran O’Connor (president) confirming that I was now a qualified referee I was delighted.”

A good preseason start but then a big ‘wall’ got in the way!

“I must have reffed upwards of 30 games before the new season as I volunteered to do plenty of academy games with Haverfordwest County and also helped out with the pre-season competitions like The Eddie Merry Trophy at Fishguard and The Joe Lennon Competition in Milford Haven, learning more and more as I went along.
But I hit a bit of a wall when I took charge of a pre-season match between Fishguard Sports and St Dogmaels because things didn’t start well and then went from bad to worse and to be honest I lost control and found myself thinking ‘What am I doing here?’
“I should have made early bookings to settle things down and spoken to both captains but I somehow survived and it was only upwards on that sharp learning curve in the intervening time, where am enjoying being part of each game.”

Martin showing good distribution skills

Early start at Letterston and a great time with Haverfordwest Cricket Club ‘Golden Oldies’

Martin would readily admit that it all seems a long way away now from starting out in the game and playing at Letterston with real characters like Derek Mathias, Ags Kalvik, Tony Jones – and of course a young Brian Mathias who represents all that is good in local football.
“Then I met my wife Claire and work commitments kept me out of the game for a while before I set out again with Haverfordwest Cricket Club, where I loved playing alongside Matthew Vaughan, Tudor Walters and Mike Smith, all old timers who had played a great deal of football but still playing on The Racecourse with the enthusiasm of teenagers. Martin John, Simon Phillips and Martin King were also involved but after the firsts had won a league and cup double in our section something happened and that team was disbanded, leaving us in the second team to get hammered in a division that was too high for us.

Martin showing his aerial strength

Rejoined Letterston and played until ‘dodgy knees’ became a reality

“So although I was living in Milford Haven (at a house we bought from Phil Gale, a top referee in his prime and a great example to young referees) I rejoined Letterston and suddenly found myself as player/manager of a second team where I was looking after such young players that I had previously taken part alongside their fathers in the first team!
“But it was very enjoyable and I actually scored a few goals, moving up from the back at set-pieces and heading the ball into the net – and another plus was the fact that I played the season in division five alongside my elder son Olly, who was playing well at centre forward and scored five goals in one match against Saundersfoot.
“Olly is now 20 and plays left wing for Milford Athletic at Pill Lane, whilst our younger son Max (16)  plays left back for Hakin United under 16s and I think it’s great that both are involved and although it’s not likely that I will play football with Max it would be nice to referee him at some time!”

Not an eager participant in other sports – just loves football

Ask Martin about other sports he likes to take part in and he readily admits that football is such a passion he has never taken up any other major sports.
“But I must admit that I have enjoyed darts for some time in one of a number of teams at ‘The Shamrock’ in Fishguard, a pub which has won a range of trophies over the past two decades.
“It’s not quite what you see on ‘The Premier League’ on Sky TV but we enjoy our weekly evening together!

Martin playing for Letterston 2nds a few years ago

And finally . . .

So now Martin really enjoys refereeing as much as he did playing and in his first full season after disruption through the pandemic he is already having matches in the first division as proof of the confidence that Acting League Sec Ian Baker has in him.
“I know referees sometimes get bad press but I have to say that so far players have responded to me positively and to be honest I’m not looking at cup finals or things like that – I’ll ref at any time in any weather!
“One of the clubs I have really enjoyed reffing has been Hakin United’s veteran team managed by Gary Dawes – and The Vikings’ first team boss Scott Davies is another I think sets a brilliant example with his approach on the touch-line.
“I’m also watching Haverfordwest County at the OGI Bridge Meadow Stadium because I work for Ogi and I’m delighted we are currently the main sponsors and The Bluebirds are providing a great facility and quality of football that talented youngsters in the county can aim to achieve.
"Refereeing or watching local football is a pleasure for me and I hope I can be involved in both for a long time to come yet!"

His Refs certificate, which he is very proud of