It’s got poacher turned gamekeeper vibes about it.
Is that why so few sportsmen and women go on to become a referee or match official in their chosen career?
Perhaps, but some have given it a go – more on that shortly – and the latest cab off the rank is William ‘Smush’ Parker.
He enjoyed a solid career in the NBA, playing more than 250 games for franchises like the LA Lakers, Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers, before hanging up his boots in 2018.
But Parker has been tempted back into basketball as a referee, joining the NBA Grassroots Referee Program that could eventually see him officiating games in the sport’s premier competition.
The irony is not lost on the 41-year-old, who during his playing days had a reputation as a tough customer to keep in line.
“I never liked referees when I was a player. I was an up-and-coming player, I wasn’t one of the stars. So, there were a lot of calls that didn’t go in my favour,” Parker has said.
However, with just 70 or so full-time officiating roles in the NBA, he knows that graduating to the position of referee will not come easy – Parker has already been told his former status as a basketball pro will have no impact upon his elevation to the court as a whistle-blower.
“Nothing is guaranteed. It’s very competitive. I tell people all the time, it may be harder for me to make it to the NBA as an official than it was even as a basketball player!”
If Parker does make the grade, he will join a very small band of individuals that have gone from player to referee, which is surprising when you consider the expertise and experience that former pros can bring to the role.
Perhaps it’s because they know first-hand how much aggravation refereeing brings that they’ve decided not to take on the role themselves….
Having spent 90 minutes every week barracking the referee and their assistants over their decision-making, you won’t be surprised to learn that few footballers have gone on to take the whistle.
Steve Baines, a journeyman pro at the likes of Huddersfield Town and Bradford City, took up refereeing when he retired from playing in 1987. It took him eight years to make it onto the Football League’s referees list, but he would enjoy an eight-year career as a ref in the lower leagues of English football.
Back in the 1800s, former Manchester United captain Sam Black would later referee games at the highest level, while Dick Jol played in the top-tiers in the Netherlands or Belgium before taking up the whistle. He would go on to referee the 2001 Champions League final – giving three penalties in a chaotic affair.
While player-turned-referee is a rare path in football, in cricket plenty more have made the transition successfully.
The likes of Charles Bannerman, Srinivas ‘Venkat’ Venkataraghavan, Paul Reiffel and Richard Illingworth have played international cricket and officiated at the highest level, while John Hampshire – the first Englishman to make a test century at Lords on debut – is another.
Kumar Dharmasena deserves a special mention. He is the only person to win the World Cup as a player, which he achieved while playing for the excellent Sri Lanka team of 1996, before umpiring the final of the same competition, which he did in 2015.
The 2022 NFL season marked a first for the sport.
Mike Morton, a former Super Bowl champion with the St Louis Rams, enjoyed a seven-year career in the NFL as a linebacker.
And it was last year that he made the step up to officiating, becoming the first Super Bowl winner in history to take the whistle at an NFL game.
There’s been a handful of other players that have gone into officiating once they have hung up their helmets, with Nate Jones and Terry Killens also joining that class of ’22.
Of all the sports played professionally around the world, baseball seems to be the one where the avenue from player to match official is most well-trodden.
According to Baseball Almanac, as many as 39 former Major League Baseball players went on to become officials.
However, it has become increasingly less common in recent years, and you have to go back to the 1970s for the last time a baseball player turned umpire or official: Frank Secory, Bill Kunkel, Thomas Gorman and William Buckhart amongst the last to do so.