Darren Cann with two other Referees

Darren Cann: Why I Referee?

Football Services
Darren Cann has made it to the top of the professional game after starting his journey on grassroots pitches in Norfolk.

Darren Cann: Why I Referee? 

Darren Cann is from Norfolk and has made it to the peak of the professional football game, but started in refereeing journey on the grassroots pitches of our County. Darren has officiated in FA Cup Finals as well as being an Assistant Referee in the 2010 World Cup Final between the Netherlands and Spain. He has been speaking to Norfolk County FA about his refereeing journey and experiences.

How did you get into refereeing?

"Completely by accident really. I was an apprentice footballer at Crystal Palace FC but got released after two seasons. I then came back to Norfolk and started playing for Wroxham and Norwich United amongst others, but I wanted to get back into professional football. With the great encouragement of two senior Norfolk referees - Jack Smith and Richard King - I was persuaded to take the referee course. I enjoyed the course very much and from that day, converted from a footballer to a referee and worked my way up the refereeing ladder back into professional football."

Tell us about your world cup experience in 2010?

"To be selected to represent your country at The World Cup is naturally the pinnacle for every footballer and match official. 2010 was such a special year for our England Referee trio - Howard Webb, myself and Mike Mullarkey. To be the first referee team in the world to officiate the UEFA Champions League Final and The FIFA World Cup Final in the same season is something we will always be proud of.

"The World Cup in South Africa, 2010 was an amazing experience. The 29 referee trios from all around the world trained every morning for 3 hours, then we had lunch together before watching the World Cup matches on TV. There was a real team spirit in the camp amongst all the referee teams and I made many great friendships with referees and assistant referees from around the world that are still strong to this day. 

"Each of our three matches leading to the final were exciting and caused a couple of surprise results: Spain 0v1 Switzerland, Italy 2v3 Slovakia and Brazil 3v0 Chile. Then on Thursday 8th July 2010 my life changed forever. It was announced that Howard, me and Mike would have the honour of officiating The 2010 World Cup Final. Nothing can prepare you for that. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. The other referee trios in the room immediately burst into spontaneous applause with genuine warmth. It was a very, very humbling experience. All of those sacrifices made over the last twenty years, all of the early morning training sessions, all of the blood, sweat and tears had been worth it."

Darren Cann (right) officiates as an Assistant Referee in the 2010 World Cup Final in South Africa between the Netherlands and Spain.

What do you enjoy about refereeing?

"Refereeing is about integrity. It is about being completely fair and impartial at all times. That’s what I enjoy the most about refereeing. I know that the two teams are going to get a completely fair, honest game from my perspective. Whether it’s the first game I ever refereed (in 1991 at Poringland Reserves in the Anglian Combination) or The World Cup Final, or any game in between, I’ve always officiated every single one fairly and honestly."

What were the biggest challenges you have faced in your career?

"The biggest challenges I’ve faced in my career have not been players or managers, but external factors like missing out on family birthdays, getting time off work to officiate matches and keeping motivated to train hard on cold winter mornings after doing it for over thirty years now. But if you keep working hard, the rewards will come."

Who’s had the biggest influence in your Refereeing career and why?

"Many people have influenced my career: Jack Smith and Richard King for encouraging me to take up the whistle in the first place. Peter Spring, John Elwin and Richard Aldridge for teaching me the Laws so well on my refereeing course. My father, Dick Cann, for teaching me to always give 100% and to never give up. My first Premier League Assistant Referee coach Paul Rejer for believing in me and giving me the confidence to perform. My son Adam who is an excellent judge - he gives me sound, honest feedback after every Premier League match and inspires me to train hard every single day. Howard Webb who gave me confidence each and every game over 10 years of officiating together. As an Assistant he empowered you like no other referee I’ve seen. He treated you as an equal - another referee on the pitch rather than an Assistant. Standing shoulder to shoulder with him as we crossed the white line, I’d be prepared to run through a brick wall for him. Last, but definitely not least, is my coach, mentor and dear friend Trevor Pollard. Trevor was an excellent Football League ‘linesman’ and much of what I’ve learned over the years has been down to his enthusiasm, encouragement, wisdom and knowledge."

What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a referee?

"Give it a try. Refereeing can be so rewarding - initially it’s a great way to keep fit and to contribute to the greatest game in the world…and you get paid for doing it too! You will make friends, learn life affirming skills such as managing people and enhancing your communication skills - and what’s more, if you’re good enough and work hard enough, you can even make a very good career out of it too."

Darren Cann operating as an Assistant Referee.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a new trainee referee?

"Work hard and never give up. You will learn from every game - the more games you do, the more confident and comfortable you’ll feel, and the better you’ll perform. Not every match will go perfectly well - there will be ups and downs - but you will learn from your mistakes, just as I did, and you will be a better for the experience. Also, speak to another refereeing colleague after your matches if you can - discuss what went well and how you can enhance your performance in other areas. But most importantly stick with it. Twice I almost gave up refereeing in the early seasons but luckily I picked up the phone each time to my mentor Trevor Pollard who encouraged me to continue. 

"When I walked out of that tunnel in Soccer City, Johannesburg for The World Cup Final in 2010, I was sure glad I hadn’t quit. Work hard and never give up."


To find out more about upcoming Referee Courses please click below. If you have any questions regarding Refereeing in Norfolk then please contact Norfolk FA’s Referee Development Officer, Harvey Newstead on Harvey.Newstead@NorfolkFA.com.