Clive on new challenge

As a former Football League referee, Northumberland County FA chief executive Clive Oliver has plenty of experience in the game at the highest level.

Having taken charge of fixtures in The FA Cup, Championship and a League Two play-off final at Wembley, Oliver is now facing up to his latest challenge in his native north-east.

Appointed to his role last September to replace long-serving predecessor Rowland Maughan in the hot-seat, Oliver has embraced his opportunity to try and improve the game in what is one of the most passionate and football-obsessed parts of England.

Clive Oliver in his days as a Football League referee.

Clive Oliver enjoyed a successful career as a Football League referee before working for the Northumberland FA

“It’s been an eye-opener to see what’s involved in being a chief executive,” revealed the 52-year-old.

“Football is for everybody and we want to give everyone an equal opportunity, it’s a fantastic game and anyone can enjoy it. 

“Football is very much cultural and we have to change cultures and keep getting people to see things differently.

“So we need to continue working towards making sure everyone sees it that way but in this job, you don’t just run football, you run the business.

“It’s a diverse job, as not only do you create a game of football for somebody but there’s all the different formats of football too and how the game’s changing.

“We get involved in things like safeguarding, coaching, equality and from my point of view, I’m enjoying it and it’s a massive challenge too.

“I came from a refereeing background and was always heavily involved with regard to the County FA’s programmes there, but there’s an awful lot of work going on that I wasn’t aware of before.”

Oliver’s previous role at Northumberland was unsurprisingly based around officiating the game and as referee development officer, he helped in the push to increase the number of officials in the English game.

Among that number was his own son Michael, who became the youngest referee to take charge of a Premier League game in 2010 and continues to impress at the highest level.

Premier League referee Michael Oliver.

Clive’s son Michael Oliver is on the Premier League list of referees

And Clive believes that his own refereeing experiences over the years have helped him in his working life so would advise a similar path for anyone.

“I’ve always thought refereeing can help anyone in their day-to-day business,” he explained. 

“You’re making decisions which you have to get right and people will certainly tell you when you get them wrong.

“So you have to get things right and be able to justify them in order to be successful.

“Of course, sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit you got something wrong and I did that when I refereed as well.

“But I think a lot of the skills that you develop from refereeing, such as communication, man management and generally dealing with people can help in other areas too.”

Oliver still takes pride in the current state of English refereeing too, with the number of officials increasing over the last few years and still on the up.

And the work doesn’t stop there either, as both Oliver and The FA are now working towards retaining more officials in the game at grassroots level.

“Football is for everybody and we want to give everyone an equal opportunity”

Clive Oliver Northumberland CFA

“There’s been an awful lot going on in refereeing with The FA and County FAs,” he added. 

“We wanted to increase the numbers, which we have done as there’s now 29,000 referees, which is a huge number. 

“Now we have to make sure we can keep increasing the quality with more coaching of them.

“And we also need to make sure that our referees stay in the game because that has been a historical problem for us.

“Because it’s such an emotional game, it’s difficult for new referees so a newly-qualified 14-year-old referee is expected to be good enough to do the World Cup Final.

“Unfortunately, that’s not the way it is but I’ll always have that vested interest because it’s where I started in the game, but my role now is about football for all.

“It’s giving everybody that chance to enjoy football, whatever they do in the game as players, coaches, referees, volunteers or spectators – there is enjoyment there for all of them.”