Cann happy as island’s top whistleblower
Lionel Cann is relishing his new role as president of the Bermuda Referees’ Association, having recently replaced Raoul Ming at the helm.
Cann is more known for his cricketing exploits with St David’s, St George’s in Cup Match, and Bermuda, but he was a good footballer, too, as a striker for St David’s and Dandy Town Hornets back in the day.
“I hear young players on the field say ‘Cann, you don’t know nothing, you’re a cricketer’, but the older people remember me from football,” said Cann, 45, who is in his second stint as a referee after initially starting out in 2000.
Cann took a break from officiating to concentrate on helping Bermuda to qualify for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, but he has been back since 2015 and is now the head of the association.
“I feel like I have a lot of energy, a lot to offer and some good ideas so I put my name up for the presidency,” Cann said. “I had been involved the last couple of years, enjoyed refereeing and I’m qualified now to do Premier Division matches.
“I just wanted to put all that energy into something. In 2000 I refereed for a couple of years, after Stuart Crockwell and Gregory Grimes got me involved. But then I got involved in trying to qualify for the World Cup so I had to make time for cricket.
“A couple of years ago when I had my blood clots and couldn’t do any contact sports, George O’Brien asked me to do a game, so I came out, found the passion for it again and have been doing it ever since. Mark Wade, who is the president of the BFA, said: ‘We’ve got a shortage, all that mouth you’ve got, why don’t you come out and referee?’.
“I said ‘get me a whistle and I’ll come out’. He provided me with a whistle and I still have that whistle. I’m committed to do it and would like to go to the top.
“It’s a challenge, but a good challenge, setting up the committees. It was my mandate to get older people working on committees and now past referees have come on board to sit on committees.
“I called Stuart Crockwell to chair the disciplinary committee. It’s a wealth of knowledge we have to tap into.”
As a former footballer, Cann is used to hearing comments from both fans and players. Most of it, he says, isn’t very flattering.
“Refereeing isn’t for everyone,” he said. “It’s hard enough for someone to come to a game and see the way the officials get verbally abused.
“It can be a turn-off. But the more we educate the referees about what it takes to be a good referee then they get thicker skin. Then it’s about educating the spectators, coaches and players on the laws of the game. You get it every week, I talk to some players who don’t know the laws of the game. Some of the coaches don’t get it, so the spectators will never get it, with all the changes.
“For me it’s very easy to turn the abuse into positives. I can handle that, being a cricketer and getting sledged. It’s just getting the new referees to understand that it comes with the game. We just have to make sure that we apply the laws of the game to the best of our ability.
Cann singles out Tashun Simons as a young referee who has plenty of potential and is already on the Fifa list. “It can be very rewarding if you start out at a young age,” the new president said.
“It opens up a lot of doors to getting appointments overseas. Going forward we want to get more people on the Fifa list. It’s exciting times for the organisation.”
Cassandra Trott is the vice president of the association, while Wendy Woodley is the secretary and Anthony Bailey the treasurer.
Cann, who played in Cup Match for St George’s last season and helped their league team gain promotion, has not made any decisions regarding his cricket career. “I haven’t thought that far, right now it’s football season and I’m not going to make any decisions on cricket,” he said.
“I’m still fit, the fittest I’ve been since the World Cup. When cricket comes around I’ll see where it’s going to go but at this point I’m not committed to anybody.”