Surekha Griffiths, FA Referee

Blog Post: Surekha Griffiths

Welcome to the first blog entry from our South Asian Heritage Month 2023 series!

“If you see it, you can be it…”

Having just completed my first full season as a referee for Middlesex FA, I have taken some time to reflect on my journey to this point. Growing up in a strict but very happy and loving Indian household in London in the 1980s, my sisters and I were raised to work hard and stay out of trouble! 

Surekha Griffiths, FA RefereeI had a mad obsession with watching football on television but being the only one in my family at that time who enjoyed watching sport, it was hard to watch games I wanted to watch around the only television we had in our house. My parents are first generation Hindu-Punjabis from India and came to this country in the 60s when racism in sport was common, so they themselves were never interested in following any sport.  

It was when I had children of my own that I reignited my interest in watching football and I got both my boys involved in playing for a local team, which they both still thoroughly enjoy. It was through my boys’ club that I decided to enrol onto the FA Referee Course, assuming I would be in a good position to referee their games. This has been followed by a full season of fantastic experiences and events which I feel privileged to have been involved in.  

The fixture I most look forward to every month is the one I do for the Middlesex FA Pan-Disability League. The fact that these players get a chance to focus on their amazing abilities and not their disabilities is just a joy to be part of. Often, people with disabilities say they feel they are different or are treated differently due to their varying conditions. Although by no means in the same way, ‘feeling different’ is arguably something many of us from different ethnic backgrounds can identify with feeling at some time in our lives. It all just adds to why I feel honoured to be trusted to be part of this special league and I can tell you that these are some of the most competitive and passionately played games I stand in the middle of!

Growing up in London when equality and representation, especially in sport, was not as advanced as it is now, I still often carry that feeling of being an imposter in football, but the huge support and awareness of this by my local FA team really helps me to shake this off and focus on my development as a referee.  

Surekha Griffiths, FA RefereeWe are so much closer to getting to a point where match officials, coaches and players are accepted without prejudice or preference, but this is change that can and will only happen as representation from people of all backgrounds and ages are involved in all areas of football.  As we see people from different backgrounds progress up the ranks in their field and become role models for the new generation, change will happen.

It is often said that ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it…’.  

I have had so many women and men from all different ages and backgrounds who had never considered they could be referees before now ask me how to get involved.
It is usually when I stand in my Size 4 Copa Mundials, in long socks, fully covered in mud after refereeing 90 minutes of football, people will ask me why I do this. I have a full-time career, I don't need another hobby and I definitely don't need the stress and abuse that often gets hurled at referees from players and spectators. My first response is always that I do it to support my own children’s football matches, but actually I also do it because I am enjoying being part of this change.  

It makes me proud to be a part of football at a time when women are not only shining on a global stage (the Lionesses rock!) but also where grassroots football is growing and rising with much more representation from people of all backgrounds. I am proud to be one of them and encourage everyone to fight through your own self-doubt and to remember that we can all be whatever we want to be.  

For more information on refereeing in Middlesex, please CLICK HERE

You can find out more about South Asian Heritage Month 2023 HERE

Plus, keep an eye on our website for more blog entries throughout the month! 

Surekha Griffiths, FA Referee