1st April 2022
Image credit: Richard Brooks
Action-packed weekends, trips abroad, making lifelong friends from all over the world and introducing youngsters to an exciting new sport.
Handball refereeing certainly isn’t a role for someone after a quiet life.
However, it’s a job adored by many, not least one of England Handball’s top officials, Nick Le-Mon.
One of the sport’s most well-known referees, Nick balances the role with his full-time job working to prevent financial crime.
And while juggling both can be a challenge, Nick said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“For me, it’s a bit of catharsis. It’s two high-pressure roles that provide very different challenges.
“Getting out on the handball court is just such a fantastic experience. For one, there’s no financial risk to it and it’s a real release. It helps just being active and part of such a fantastic community,” said Essex-born Nick.
“In terms of juggling refereeing with my life, most fixtures are on weekends, and I’ve been known to do up to six games over the two days because I enjoy it so much. My other hobbies are running and cycling, so the combination of all of it really helps keep me fit.”
Nick (second from right) in refereeing action. Image credit: Richard Brooks
Nick, who lives in London, added: “There have been days when one moment I’m in Manchester and then I’ve gone down to Bournemouth, but I enjoy the travelling. It allows me to have a bit of ‘me time’ - to relax and do what I want.
“Most of all, I enjoy watching people play handball, making sure they have a good time, and love seeing people flourishing in the sport. I also recently refereed at the England Handball Schools Championship - where it was a real joy to see all those young people taking part.”
As well as trips to officiate in countries such as Sweden and the Czech Republic, Nick said another benefit to handball refereeing is the number of new people he meets from all corners of the globe.
He said: “I’ve now got friends from all over the world. I’ve never even been to places like Argentina and Canada, but I’ve got friends from there just from meeting them at events.” Nick said his role investigating financial crime isn’t a world apart from refereeing - and that it actually is an aid rather than a hindrance.
“I often think they both require a similar mindset. In sport and crime there are rules to be followed - and it’s my job in both to find the people not following them .
"In handball, no one has come to watch you as a referee; they want to see a fair game, A good referee is integral to this and shouldn't be the focal point unless it is necessary."
Nick said there’s no tried and tested route into handball refereeing, and that people from all walks of life including other sporting backgrounds are invited to try it out for themselves.
He explained: “I had refereed football for quite a while before I got into handball, falling in love with the sport during the London 2012 Olympics.
“I got into the sport as a player initially, and thought it was fantastic to see its combative, fast-paced nature – like an indoor version of rugby mixed with basketball, full of adrenalin.
“I turned up to play a game around the time of the Olympics and there weren’t enough referees.
“By chance, I arrived with a whistle in my bag, so was drafted in as an emergency replacement.
“I loved it and was spotted as having potential.”
Now Nick, 34, is calling for more people to become handball referees - and said: “It’s so worth giving it a try - you’ll never know until you’ve picked up that whistle.
“England Handball really help ease you in with an in-depth training programme and are so helpful throughout.
“We do get paid for refereeing, but you don’t get into it for the money. I would do it for free - it’s for the love of the sport.”
Stay tuned for a big announcement on England Handball’s brilliant referees coming soon…