Former Salisbury City player – and county firefighter – Sam Allison to referee in the Premier League

A FORMER Salisbury City player and Wiltshire firefighter will take to the field as a Premier League referee this weekend.

After his playing days with the likes of Swindon Town, Bristol City and latterly Salisbury, Sam Allison was faced with the question of what comes next.

“I had a secretary at the club (I was at) who was a refereeing coach and he tried to encourage me to be a referee and I said, ‘nah, not yet’,” the 42-year-old told the EFL website.

“It wasn’t until about seven years later that I thought I might give it a go to stay in the game for longer.

“To cut a long story short, he said he’d support me and help me. Maybe 10 or 11 years later, I’m in the position I’m in now.”

And that is a prominent position, with Sam gearing up to take charge of Sheffield United v Luton on Boxing Day.

Not only will it be his top-flight debut, Sam will also become the first Black referee in the Premier League for 15 years.

However, looking back, his first game on a chilly Wiltshire morning is one he’ll never forget.

“It was a Sunday morning at a place called Bratton,” he said. “Blowing that whistle for the first time was really daunting because there was nobody there to support me at the time.

“I was lucky enough that I was able to sell decisions just based on my footballing experience.

“I remember giving a penalty in the game and it was more of a guess rather than getting in the right position to give the right decision.”

Sam Allison was a station manager for DWFRS as well as a top referee. Picture: PGMOL

Sam Allison was a station manager for DWFRS as well as a top referee. Picture: PGMOL

To allow him to keep pursuing his career as the man in the middle, Sam pursued a career with the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, eventually becoming a station manager.

DWFRS tweeted: “Huge congratulations to our own station manager Sam Allison for his success as a football referee – we’re very proud.”

But fireman Sam, as he was inevitably known, is also aware of his status as a role model for upcoming Black referees.

He will be the first person of colour to referee in the Premier League since Uriah Rennie in 2008.

“I don’t hide that I want to reach the top,” he said. “I want to be a role model within my community and show representation as a Black man in football and being a referee at the same time.

“My desire has to be to reach the top just to show people that you can do it.

“Pressure comes with it but when you’re fighting fires and saving lives, that’s a pressure situation.

“Having that visibility is key but at the same time, you have to have ability, desire, work hard and take the opportunities when they come forward.”

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