EFL referees head into the community for PGMOL Breaking Barriers at Ashton Gate

PGMOL, the body responsible for refereeing across the EFL, headed to Ashton Gate, the home of Bristol City FC, for their latest ‘Breaking Barriers in the Community’ session, as Refresh Sports delivered an interactive event in collaboration with PGMOL and Robins Foundations, the community arm of Bristol City FC.

Hosted by Sky Sports News Presenter Dharmesh Sheth, Sky Bet Championship officials John Busby and Hristo Karavainov gave the audience an insight into their lives and careers alongside up and coming FA Referee Rebecca Halford. The event, which was the fifth since the beginning of the 2023/24 season, brought together young people from Bristol City Robins Foundation and the wider grassroots football community to discover more about officiating at all levels of the football pyramid, learn about the experiences of role models and step into the role of a Video Assistant Referee.

Bulgarian-born assistant referee Hristo Karaivanov shared his unique story with the audience, which included a stint of National Service in his homeland, several years before he moved to the UK and began his journey as a referee, which was spurred on by a friend. Discussing his journey, Hristo expressed how he took up refereeing with some reservations but quickly got into it and feels that he has developed essential transferable skills to help him in his career off the pitch.

Hristo, who was promoted to the Championship ahead of the current season, is also part of PGMOL’s Development Group, which was formed in the summer of 2022 as part of the Elite Referee Development Plan (ERDP) with the purpose of increasing opportunities throughout the pipeline and broadening the pool of diverse officials.

John Busby, who has officiated over 200 matches and has been part of the Select Group 2 list of referees since 2021, said: “It’s a fantastic experience and opportunity to share my career and journey with people who potentially didn’t realise what opportunities are available to them.”

Rebecca Halford officiated her first Barclays Women’s Championship earlier this season at Birmingham City and hopes that her story, which began as a player on the international stage for Wales U19’s, may inspire other women and girls to take up the whistle.

Senior leaders from PGMOL and Bristol City Robins Foundation were in attendance on the night, with Robins Foundation CEO Dan White pointing towards the importance of collaboration between football clubs and PGMOL.

When asked about why PGMOL is delivering ‘Breaking Barriers in the Community’ events around the country, Technical Director Adam Gale-Watts said: “Engagement with all communities is really important from a refereeing perspective to not only demonstrate that there are opportunities for all within refereeing, but also to provide education and empathy around the role of a referee.”

The next PGMOL ‘Breaking Barriers in the Community’ event is being delivered in collaboration with Middlesbrough Foundation at the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday 24th April between 6:00-8:30pm – click here for more information.

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