WILTSHIRE whistler Sam Allison hopes more players will be persuaded to follow his lead and become football referees as their careers draw to a close.

Former Chippenham Town ace Allison, who is still a registered player with Frome Town, joined Premier League official Howard Webb and ex-England full-back Danny Mills at Wembley last week to launch the FA Carlsberg referee awards.

The new initiative will recognise officials’ work at all levels of football with six national categories and awards created for each of the 50 county football associations.

Level Five-qualified Allison, 32, began his career last year and, as well as reffing in Chippenham Sunday League and Wiltshire League matches, has assisted in the Western League.

Allison, who lives in Melksham and is a firefighter in Trowbridge, said: “At the start it was a bit lonely being on your own but as you go up through the levels, you start to work as a team a lot more and there is a lot of cameraderie there.

“Part of the reason I took it up was that so I could remain involved in the game when my playing days were coming to an end. I wish I had done it a long time ago.’’

He added: “It was great to meet Howard Webb (who officiated the Newcastle versus Manchester United match last Sunday) because you get an idea of what sort of planning he puts in before he referees a big game

Webb added: “I hope by highlighting the good work referees do at all levels encourages more people to be involved.”

Nominations can be made to the county FA from November 15 to February next year. See carlsberg.co.uk/football or thefa.com/referees for more information.