In this month’s edition of Behind the Whistle, Football Queensland spoke to Lynda Arkinstall on her career transition from player to referee, to now working as a Referee Assessor.
Arkinstall first began playing in the 1970s for Brighton District FC in Queensland before an injury led her to hang up her boots.
“I got injured and got taken down really badly in a challenge in 1992, and I was on crutches for quite a few weeks,” she said.
“My father told me that I couldn’t keep getting injured all the time, because I had a job and it wasn’t sensible anymore to keep getting injured. But I loved the game so much that I didn’t want to leave the game.
“So, somebody said to me, ‘You don’t have to leave the game. Why don’t you become a referee?’”
Arkinstall went on to complete a referee course which kickstarted her lifelong love of officiating.
“I just loved it right from day one. And you don’t get taken out! No injuries,” she explained.
“Once I committed myself to something I love, I didn’t go back.”
Her passion for refereeing led to her encouraging others to take up officiating, especially if they could no longer play.
“I used to encourage people and say, ‘if you can no longer play the game because of an injury, that injury doesn’t put you out of refereeing in the game,’” Arkinstall said.
“If you can still run and jog, you can still be a part of the game.”
After officiating for multiple years, including at a national level, Arkinstall began working as a referee assessor and mentor in Queensland, providing guidance for junior and senior referees.
“I go out every weekend and it can be huge spectrum for me, I can be assessing brand new referees on their first ever games one day, and the next day, I can be assessing referees on NPL main games,” she said.
“I’ve never set myself any goals in only assessing certain levels, I kept on going up until I got all the way to level one so that I could assess any referee, anywhere.”
Helping young match officials improve their skills is a proud accomplishment for Arkinstall.
“I do get much more enjoyment assessing the younger ones and the ones in the early stages, because I can see them develop so quickly, and you can see it straight away,” she said.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment that I’ve actually helped that one person be better at what they can do and to hopefully get their passion and excitement into refereeing, like I have.”
Over the course of her long career as a referee and now assessor, Arkinstall has witnessed many changes within the game and recognises the evolution of the refereeing space.
“When I first started, refereeing was a bit slower because the goalkeeper could hold onto the ball longer and the ball had to come out of the box, so it was a slower game,” she explained.
“But now the game is faster, and the intensity is much quicker. The players are better than what they’ve ever been, and the referees have got to be fitter as well. So, it’s evolved greatly.
“Before, we didn’t have enough tools. Now we have videos and zoom sessions and you can talk to any mentor and assessor. Resources are way better than what they were back in the day.”
She also offered advice for any match official wanting to rise through the ranks of refereeing.
“A lot of younger and older referees are so focused on ‘I want top level games’. If you just let the process take its place and just accept the games for whatever level, you will get up to the top.
“It might take that little bit longer, but you’ll learn a lot more if you go through the proper channels.”
While Arkinstall never expected her career to take off in the way it has, she encouraged others to take on any opportunities they can within refereeing.
“When I became a referee, I had no expectations of where refereeing was going to take me. But I got way more out of it than I ever expected I’d get,” she said.
“You never know where refereeing will take you. If you perfect your craft, and learn to do it well, it can take you anywhere in the world.”