‘Testing yourself in an unfamiliar environment is hugely beneficial’ – Jamie Robinson

Northern Irish Referee Jamie Robinson spoke to Malta Today about his refereeing experience in Malta.

Jamie Robinson
Jamie Robinson

Robinson took charge of the match between Birkirkara and Tarxien Rainbows which was played on the 20th of October. The match finished 2-0 in favour of the Stripes.

Following this match, Robinson spoke to this newspaper regarding his enjoyable experience refereeing in the Maltese Premier League.

What are your comments regarding the match between Birkirkara and Tarxien which you officiated in Malta?

It was a good game of football and an enjoyable game to referee since the players from both sides were only looking to play football and they both showed a high level of respect to us as foreign officials. It was clear to see that there were players with real quality on the pitch and had represented their country at international level. It was a real honour and privilege for us as a group of match officials from Northern Ireland to be able to represent the Irish Football Association and experience football in a different country.

What are the positives which you took from this experience? Are there any negatives?

There are countless positives to take away from the experience we had. This referee exchange between Northern Ireland and Malta has been in place for many years now and it adds significant value to the profile of each of the officials involved in the process. To have the opportunity to test yourself in an unfamiliar environment is hugely beneficial as it’s a huge test of your character, personality and referee ability. We had to change our approach somewhat and adapt to the surroundings and conditions put in front of us as it was certainly very different for us to be officiating a match at 5.15pm and in 25°C since we experience much colder conditions. Personally, it was my second time visiting Malta but for the others it was the first time so it was great for them to be able to visit this beautiful country with such friendly people and we all left with memories for a lifetime.

How do you compare Maltese football with that inside Northern Ireland?

It’s hard to compare football in Malta to football in Northern Ireland. From my experience, the football in Northern Ireland is most certainly a lot more physical and the threshold for physical contact to be expected as a foul is a lot higher. There were a lot less fouls in the match in Malta than I would typically be used to in Northern Ireland and the play was slower and with less intensity but I found the players in Malta to be very good technically and they kept possession well with efficient passing and movement. Malta and Northern Ireland are both small countries and I think both should be very proud of the level of football that they produce in the respective top leagues.

What is your opinion regarding the refereeing sector in Malta?

I first visited Malta in 2013 as part of a training programme in which referees from Northern Ireland and Malta spent a week together and took part in various physical and educational activities designed to help us develop and improve. It’s great to see some of those referees have progressed since then and are now operating in the top levels of football in Malta. It’s experiences like the referee exchanges I have taken part in which make referees better and this will benefit the referees involved from the MFA and IFA and they can then share their experiences with colleagues. Maltese FIFA referee Trustin Farrugia Cann will be coming to Northern Ireland next month for a UEFA U19 Tournament and I will be working with him in this tournament so it will be great to continue the fantastic relationship between both football associations.

What are your plans for the future?

I will continue to learn and develop from my experiences and this will continue until the day I stop refereeing. My initial aim is to consolidate my position within the NIFL Premiership panel of referees in my country with the long-term goal to represent Northern Ireland as a FIFA referee. I will continue to put in the hard work required in order to try and achieve this goal. I’ve been very fortunate to have been supported by some great people in Northern Ireland since the start of my career in 2008 and for this I am forever grateful.