Do you dream of becoming a world-famous footballer or a highly talented cricketer? Do you love the atmosphere when a goal is scored, or someone scores a great run? Well, there’s no one who is more familiar with that exhilarating feeling than Colin Downey, one of England’s great sportsmen. Colin has been in the sports industry for over fifty years and has officiated at 2335 football matches including the FA Challenge Cup Final and the FA Vase Cup Final (both held at Wembley stadium). So, there is really no-one better to explain the pros and cons of the current sports industry and how it has changed.

Just like anyone, Colin had to start somewhere, and remembers ‘kicking a football in the park with his older brother.’ Colin has had his own hugely successful career and he has some advice for young people wanting to join the sports industry. It’s as simple as ‘work hard, train hard and take advice from coaching staff.’ However, with that positive advice must also come a stark warning, that ‘many are rejected as early as eleven or twelve’ which is of course ‘heart breaking.’ So, is everyone cut out for this industry, or only an elite few?

Colin, having been a respected figure in the sporting industry for many years, has seen many changes, one of the largest being a huge increase in the fees paid to these ‘elite few’. He has seen a huge ‘change in the large sums of money invested in the top levels of the game,’ and blames it on ‘TV having far too much influence in professional football.’ The Premier League earns 1.5 billion pounds from national TV rights alone, not to mention sponsorship and commercial deals. Colin believes that these values are ‘ridiculously excessive,’ especially after we have seen the devastation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. It begs the question; do the elite deserve all that money? Yes, the schedule of a professional footballer is exhausting, but what about lifesaving NHS staff on minimum wage? Where are the billions being spent on them?

Although it is evident that there are negatives to the sporting industry, there is certainly never a shortage of positives that can come from a career in sports. ‘Sports has changed [Colin’s] life,’ with football taking him to many different countries. He has ‘officiated at Wembley Stadium three times – twice in front of 100,000 spectators,’ and he says that he couldn’t have achieved it without the ‘help and support of his family’. Family is an enormous part of sports, whether it be blood relatives or simply being supporters of the same team, there is no doubt that there is a family spirit that is proudly upheld within the sports industry. With the sense of community within the sports industry, it seems that anything is possible.

Recently it has become evident what can go wrong when this community falls apart, most notably the recent rise in racism within the football community. In football especially, the news has reported that racism is on the rise. As Colin says, ‘Any form of racism is unacceptable,’ and recent steps taken in the sporting industry have helped to highlight this. With many sports men and women taking the knee before they start a game, this, along with the power of the media, has greatly increased awareness of this hugely important topic. However, is raising awareness enough? If abuse from supporters wasn’t enough, it has become clear that abuse can come from just about anywhere, including those on the pitch. Now, players seen to commit acts of racial abuse are to be banned for five matches. Is this justice? Racially fueled abuse is not acceptable in any area of society, and can be punishable by law in most cases, so is a temporary ban from the sport enough? Will it be too weak to teach racist players a lesson? Or could it go too far and ruin their career? Either way, Colin holds the view that racism is ‘disrespectful’ and ‘unacceptable’ in the sporting industry and goes against everything that sport stands for.


It is clear that sport has a huge impact on the lives of so many in our community, from ‘kicking a ball in the park,’ to ‘officiating at Wembley Stadium,’ Colin, as well as gaining wisdom and knowledge on all-things-sport, has also made ‘many remaining lifelong friends’ – not to mention the ‘opportunities to remain feeling young!’ Clearly, sport has had a massively positive impact on Colin’s life, but it is no secret that sport can also be a source of injustice and inequality for many others. Many steps are currently being made by the FA and Cricket associations to combat this war against the core values of sport, including the FA’s Kick It Out campaign.


So, do you want to dive right into the world of football, or take a hit at a cricket career? Or would you rather stay far away from the ‘boos’ and ‘hisses’ that come with a shining career in the sporting industry? Do you have what it takes to cope with the tubulance of a life of success and failure?