Blog,  Life after refereeing

Life after refereeing: Errol Sweeney from Ireland

Errol Sweeney is back in his own Ireland, but has been a football referee in South Africa. He actually was named the best referee of South Africa twice. Once by his colleagues, the second time by sports journalists.

Errol Sweeney in action during a match in South Africa.
Errol Sweeney in action during a match in South Africa. Photo provided by referee.
Name: Errol Sweeney
Born: 1947
Country: Ireland
Career: FAI Intermediate, Cup final – 1974/1975; first cup final in South Africa was in 1986 as assistant referee. In 1986 he was fourth official and he got the first cup final as referee in 1988. In 1991 he also officiated both semi cup finals, which is unique in South Africa.

What do you do now for a living?

Errol Sweeney: “I’m a psychologist working in Wilson’s Hospital School in Ireland dealing with teenagers. And I am a referee coach and mentor up and including World Cup level.”

How do you look back on your career and what is your best experience?

“I started refereeing at the tender age of 22 in Ireland and by the time I finished in South Africa I had completed 25 years on the field experience. I went to South Africa in 1985 with my wife and four children as there was no work here in Ireland. It was difficult settling in at first but we got used to it and in the end really enjoyed it.”

“Like most referees I had many ups and downs but I always found it to be a fantastic journey. I never let a game fall through because I couldn’t make it – hail, rain, and snow. My best experience was the South Africa Cup Final in 1988 in front of 95.000 people. I also refereed Manchester United v Arsenal when they came to South Africa in 1993 when I red carded the former Utd and England captain Bryan Robson for foul and abusive language. It caused a big uproar at the time.”

Do you miss (professional) refereeing?

“I really do miss professional refereeing. If only God would make time stand still I would still be refereeing, but that’s life.”

What needs to be changed in football/refereeing?

“Basically there needs to be a separate Independent Refereeing Body to run and control refereeing. The National Football Association should have nothing to do with it. The soccer politicians are ruining refereeing and too many clubs and high profile club managers/coaches have too much influence when it comes to which referees handle their games.”

Errol Sweeney has also written a blog about a seperate Independent Refereeing Body on the website of Supersport, an African sports pay-tv channel. You can read all the stories of Errol Sweeney on refereeing here.

Read also previous interviews in this section


  • musinguzi urban

    as a retired ref,l request u to make attempts and mobilisation towards making ref decisions,l feel refs are given too much freedom,look,their decisions are finnal even if wrong.teams loose,this needs to be over turned,either after the game or in the game,4th officials are like scare clause,take passive role in the game.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      After a game would be difficult maybe, because if you disallow a goal afterwards teams would have used a different tactic later that game. But would video replay be a good option for you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.