As part of a series called ‘Changing The Game’, we’ve spoken to Lincolnshire Referee – Duncan Bayes – about his journey through grassroots football and what challenges he’s overcome, as well as his commitment to ensuring football is a safe, enjoyable, and inclusive space for all.
Duncan, 46, has been a Referee since 2016 – though has been involved in the game for most of his life in one way or another. While football and Refereeing is his passion, Duncan has worked in the NHS for a whopping 25 years as a Theatre Support Worker.
Refereeing on the Lincoln Co-Op Mid-Lincs Youth League and being an Assistant Referee on the United Counties League has given Duncan a fantastic platform to build confidence, and he encourages others to make their steps into Refereeing.
“Anyone who wants to become a Referee should come have go” he says. “There’s loads of support locally and nationally, and its good way of building up confidence. If you like it, then there’s a super promotion scheme for you to officiate at progressively higher levels.”
Duncan also has a great commitment to inclusion, and ensuring the game is safe, inclusive, and enjoyable for all.
“I have seen in recent years a significant improvement by the way of inclusion work and making the game for all, such as people with disabilities or those who identify as different sexual orientations. We still have a way to go, but things have definitely improved.”
As someone who was faced his own adversities navigating his way through life, both in and out of football, Duncan knows why inclusion work is so important in football and the positive influence the sport can have on someone who’s trying to understand who they are as a person.
“As a young person growing up, I battled with understanding who I was, as a gay man. I came out in 2000 after many years of hiding it, living in fear. Growing up in a small village probably didn’t help that.
Being an openly gay Referee isn’t always easy, and there have been challenges over the years but as a match official, you have Referee family who will support you.”
“I did, unfortunately, have to send a manager off last season for using homosexual language towards me. However, I received full backing from Lincolnshire FA, and I would always recommend a Referee reports abuse aimed towards them.
I am always ready to campaign for things in as regards to inclusion, such as Rainbow Laces or Football v Homophobia, especially where my sexuality and disability is concerned.”
Duncan now does what he can to support Referees with any issues they may have, especially on the occasions where abuse has been received and how to go about reporting this. He’s even got himself involved in a safeguarding campaign to ensure football is a safe space for all.
Lincolnshire FA would like to commend Duncan for his commitment to inclusion and his attitude towards ensuring the game is truly for all.
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