The secret life of a Premier League referee: Jon Moss' surprise second career

Jon Moss has refereed 206 Premier League games - but a love of music is just as strong for the Sunderland official
Image: Jon Moss has refereed 206 Premier League games - but a love of music is just as strong for the Sunderland official

What do Premier League referees do off the field? One official has taken a career turn very different to his weekend whistle-blowing - and swapped red cards for records.

There are few greater pleasures than whiling away a spare half hour browsing through some vinyl. Tucked away in Headingley, the student capital of Leeds, is a record shop run by a familiar face in the Premier League. The Vinyl Whistle is a labour of love for referee Jon Moss, who first set foot on the streets of Headingley as a student in the early 1990s.

"I was very lucky when I was at university because it was that Manchester scene just taking off," says the Select Group referee.

"James, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, all really good bands that are still going now. It just had a really good scene in Leeds and Manchester. We used to go over to the Hacienda for a night out. I saw Primal Scream at Huddersfield Uni once, when they were going through a bit of a rock phase.

"My wife wanted a coffee shop, and we toyed with that idea. Then we were on holiday in February and I said, 'Shall we have a go at a record shop with a bit of coffee?' So we found this property and it went from there. We wanted it to be in Headingley because we love this place."

Moss' shop in Headingley has embraced all kinds of vinyl genres
Image: Moss' shop in Headingley has embraced all kinds of vinyl genres

Moss is firmly rooted in the indie category, so has opening the shop opened his eyes to genres he previously neglected?

"Absolutely. I'm right out of my comfort zone with things like jazz," he admits. "I'm really trying to get into jazz but the most I can listen to is about half an hour. One of the guys who works here is a student who is right into his jazz so he is trying to train me so there is a bit of that."

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Now to the obvious question, what do the other referees like listening to?

"In the Select Group we've got a real mix of music," Moss explains. "I did an interview a while ago and said that Kevin Friend was into his dance music, I saw him yesterday and he said, 'It's not dance, it's trance!'

"Then we've got Craig Pawson into indie music, like me. Anthony Taylor is into some really dodgy music, all those guilty pleasures like Miley Cyrus and stuff like that. Martin Atkinson is into The Jam and Graham Scott likes a bit of Queen. There's a real mix across the board."

The thought of bumping into Kevin Friend at a Cream Ibiza night, hands in the air, as Binary Finary's 1998 (Paul van Dyk remix, of course) pumps out across the dance floor is certainly an endearing one.

Moss opened 'The Vinyl Whistle' earlier this year
Image: Moss opened 'The Vinyl Whistle' earlier this year

On television, we are used to seeing the images of players wandering through the tunnel on arrival during a matchday with headphones on and then hearing the pre-match tunes pumped out of the dressing rooms. Referees are no different.

"We've got a team of four guys in the dressing room," Moss explains. "The players have got a music-off between the two dressing rooms and we're in the middle of it all. 2pm 'til kick-off is music time in the dressing room where you've got background music, preparing for the game.

"Then you've got your build-up last song before you go out. I've got a playlist of about an hour. Generally, it's The Courteeners before we go out - 'Not Nineteen Forever'. Then Take That as the last song just before we go out. I'm not a Take That fan but it's a mickey take from years ago that's just stuck."

For Moss and many of his colleagues, music is a vital part of a job that is becoming more and more high profile and pressurised each season.

Daniel James with referee Jon Moss during United's draw at Wolves
Image: Jon Moss has overseen six Premier League games this season - his next will be Leicester vs Burnley on Saturday

"Refereeing is changing, obviously we've got a lot of technology, VAR and goal-line technology," says Moss. "But also social media. Generally, when you're writing something on social media it's not to say the referee has had a great game, so we're not allowed to have a social media account, although there are some parody accounts out there.

"I think it's becoming more and more difficult for referees to get away from that other side as well. For the younger referees, it's something that they are going to have to cope with more and more.

"After I did a game last Saturday I was at Brighton, so it's a long drive back to Leeds. I just put a load of music on all the way up and before I knew it I was at Leicester with a hundred miles to go to home.

"I don't want to do a game and listen to radio shows, phone-ins analysing everything, so I think it's good just to switch off. If you've had a good game you're buzzing with the music but if things haven't quite gone to plan it might be more of a reflective playlist."

You can see our feature with Jon Moss at The Vinyl Whistle on this weekend's Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports News from 12pm.

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