It now has a significantly different focus and selection criteria and is aimed at the 18-23 year-old bracket, but with the focus shifted from level 4s onto level 7s, 6s and 5s with potential to reach semi-pro football and above with a clear potential, attitude, motivation and desire to move through the referee pathway. It is a two-year rolling programme for elite referees which has just started its Foundation Course: “Managing the game at Local Level”. It will be followed next year by the Advanced Course: “Developing you and your Team”.
Jerome was invited by the FA to Staverton Park in Northampton at the end of July for the intensive two-day programme, which primarily utilised local outdoor facilities for a number of practical workshops, in addition to the indoor conference facilities. All referees were given a log to complete over the course of the season on a regular basis including a self-analysis of all performances in their games with a requirement to complement this with on-line learning opportunities.
Jerome said: "When I was first told about this opportunity I was very excited. I didn't know what to expect but I knew I was going to meet loads of young referees. As soon as we got into the session, they put us into groups. I was on a table that had referees from Coventry, Birmingham, Yorkshire and The Army Football Associations. There were a number of young referees from all over the country, at all different levels.
"I met one guy from the new RA-FA Youth Council; he was 20 and he was a level 4 referee. I was amazed. There were so many young people and they weren't doing badly at all.
"I met a referee called Bobby Madley who is 26. He inspired me very much with his story at the end of the two days. He told us about his journey, the ups and downs to getting on the National List of referees and now he's about to start this season in the Premier League.
"Throughout the two days I was there I learnt so much, and I had such a great time, especially at the end of Saturday with all the young referees in the bar. At the end, we were all given an FA bag and some note pads, brief case and pens, all with the FA logo.
"This experience motivated me so much and now, with the new season a breath away, I feel inspired, refreshed and ready for the assessors. Hopefully soon, I’ll be working with the young referees of today doing all the big games of tomorrow.
"Ambitions like refereeing in the Premier League, FA Cup and European football, even a World Cup - they feel closer, and as the seasons go by, they are just going to get closer and closer.
"It’s amazing how inspired and motivated you can get in two days."
The FA was impressed by the dedication and professional image each participant portrayed, all of whom were a credit to both the FA and to their Counties. Without doubt, sat around the tables that weekend were referees who will be controlling future FA Cup Finals and international matches.
Will one of them be Jerome?
Time will tell, but he has as good a chance as any there to grab the opportunities offered and we will watch his progress with great interest.