A TALENTED teenage referee is celebrating after picking up a prestigious award.

Fourteen-year-old Ulverston Victoria High School pupil Kyle McKendry scooped the Lancashire Football Association Newcomer of the Year for 2018 at the FA’s recent annual Referee Award Evening.

The John Lewis Newcomer of the Year is awarded to a referee who has shown promise, commitment and enthusiasm in their first season.

And with Lancashire boasting more than 400 new referees, it is quite an achievement for McKendry to win.

McKendry took his refereeing course, run by ex-Football League referee Jim Parker and Tony Wager, of the Lancashire FA, in July 2017 at Furness College and passed his written assessment and practical work with flying colours.

He registered with the Barrow and District Junior Football League for the beginning of the 2017/18 season and refereed 37 matches at Under-11s, Under-12s and Under-13s, including two cup finals.

McKendry – who also plays for Swarthmoor SC Under-15s – was presented with the award at a star-studded evening at Blackburn's Mercure Dunkenhalgh Country House Hotel, hosted by Premier League referee Jon Moss and his two assistant referees, Andy Halliday and Ed Smart.

“It feels great to have won this prestigious award and it shows how hard work can pay off, “ said McKendry. “Not just from me but everyone who has given me support throughout my first season as a referee.

“That includes Tony Wager, from the Furness Referee Society; Lewis Smith, the referee development officer at the Lancashire FA who travelled to Barrow on cold and wet Monday evenings to deliver invaluable coaching sessions; my dad for taking me to my matches, helping run my line and for his pre-match advice and guidance; and the team managers, players and parents for their support at the matches, making my role an awful lot easier.

“I just can’t wait to get going again next season (although I am enjoying a bit more time on Saturday mornings!) and look forward to continuing with my progression and hopefully winning another award.”

McKendry's dad David said: “As a family we are extremely proud of Kyle to win this award in his first season of refereeing. We must thank Tony Wager, Lewis Smith and the Furness Referee Society for their support and encouragement towards Kyle.

“Having been manager/coach and welfare officer at Swarthmoor Juniors for more than 13 years, I was happy to support Kyle with his interest in refereeing.

“However, if you read about experiences some referees have had to endure in grassroots football, I will admit that I did have some reservations about a young 13-year-old possibly being subjected to abuse.

“After attending all of Kyle’s matches last season, I can only say I have been blown away with the respect shown to him by managers, coaches, parents and the players in the Barrow and District League.

“Kyle refereed almost 40 matches at under-11s, under-12s and under-13s and he was shown nothing but the utmost respect.

“There has clearly been an awful lot of hard work put in by the league and their affiliated clubs to adopt the FA’s Respect programme. And although I can only speak from what Kyle and myself have witnessed, it has been fantastic to attend matches where young boys are just allowed to play football, or referee, and have fun. With a competitive edge of course!"

Wager said: “We are delighted that Kyle has won this award and is the first local referee to be recognised by the Lancashire FA.

“It was clear from Kyle’s attitude to learning on his referee course that he had potential, always listening to what was being taught and always had a big smile.

“Throughout his first season he has improved game-on-game and has now become a very confident young man with bags of potential to progress further if he so wishes, and his selection on the Academy provides him with the perfect platform.

“Refereeing isn't just about earning some pocket money, it's about developing the individual and picking up important life skills. What a great addition to anyone’s CV.”

He added: “Refereeing is certainly on the up in the local area with numbers of officials and games being covered rising. Over the past couple of seasons the coverage of games has gone up from 51 per cent to 79 per cent, and we have more than doubled the number of referees in the BDJFL. Five of our officials were rewarded for all their hard work with Lancashire FA Cup final appointments.”

McKendry has also been put forward to the Lancashire FA’s Young Potentials Academy for the 2018/19 season. This scheme is aimed at providing younger officials with the necessary guidance and support to be able to progress further.

The Academy is led by Football League referees and FA tutors, the group meeting four times over the year and taking part in practical referee training, indoor technical sessions and regular Laws of the Game exams.

The Furness Referee Society are running another course at Furness College on July 7/8, delivered by former Football League referee Jim Parker, from the LFA. Anyone interested should contact the BDJFL referees officer for further information and a discount code using bdjflrefs@gmail.com

Discounts are available for anyone wishing to referee locally in the BDJFL or the Furness And District League with the course open to boys and girls aged 14 or over.