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arrow pointing leftBack 13 April 23 - by Phil Campbell

Referee of the Year winner hopes to inspire new refereeing talent

England's Gina Kennedy and referee Phil Rea at the England Squash Awards 2023
Phil Rea hopes to inspire the next generation of squash officials after winning the England Squash Referee of the Year award.

The last 12 months have seen the 39-year-old become a national level referee and officiate at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Having taken up squash refereeing properly in 2018, RAF Squadron Leader Rea knows of the refereeing participation challenges squash faces but hopes his achievements will show there’s a pathway for younger officials to come through.

Phil said:

“It’s hugely satisfying that close colleagues in the refereeing community have put me forward for this award.

“I’m thankful they’ve made the effort to nominate me and noticed the effort I’ve put in.

“Having someone like myself, a younger referee, coming through the [officiating] process relatively quickly will hopefully encourage people [to take up refereeing] too.”

The Bristol-based official, who’s been a member of Redland Green Club for eight years, explained his commitment to improving refereeing in his local area and his thoughts on the game.

Rea hoped by offering advice and answering questions on the sport, he could encourage aspiring officials to get involved.

“I’m not expecting everybody to go on and become a world referee but if they enjoy it and they want to referee and they help me put on a more professional tournament in our local county, then that makes me proud.

“Squash is gladiatorial.

“You’ve got two people boxed in a cage going for it.

“If you can get to a point where they’ve come off court, thanked you and shaken your hand at the end of the match, you’ve done your job at that point.

“That for me is the satisfaction.

“Refereeing is the next best thing to being a player and referees have the best seat in the house.”

Rea was part of Mission 22, a scheme set up by England Squash in 2018 with the aim of increasing referee participation levels by using the incentive of potentially being selected to officiate at the Commonwealth Games.

He succeeded in being chosen for the event which culminated in him acting as a technical official in the Women’s doubles Bronze medal match between two Malaysian teams.

Rea said: “I had to work extremely hard but when I finally got the call that I would be refereeing at the Commonwealth Games it was incredible.

“For squash, the Commonwealth Games is the pinnacle, it’s the highest occasion for players and referees.

“Not only was it a home games which was pretty cool, but just to be there was phenomenal.”

The last year also saw Rea officiate the 2022 British National Squash Championships Men’s final in Manchester, at the World Squash Federation (WSF) World Doubles Squash Championships in Glasgow and the European Team Championships in Eindhoven.

When asked about the most rewarding moment of the year, Rea described how being entrusted with the Men’s final left him feeling excited and that he’d made it as a referee.

“It’s a huge occasion and I came away buzzing it had gone really well.

“It was the icing on the cake.”

Rea’s future ambition is to become a world level referee and “would love to see” squash at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Rea paid tribute to the RAF for the support they’d given him during his refereeing career.

“The RAF have supported me completely with my squash ventures.

“If it wasn’t for being in the military, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the level I wanted to get to or ended up at the Commonwealth Games so I’m hugely thankful.”

Find out more about the awards.