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Monday, September 18, 2023

#SpectacularSportspeople : Exclusive Interview with Mover and Shaker Paul Rejer, Assessor for the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) Our Coverage Sponsored by Cosmopolitan Dental, Official Dentist of Whom You Know @GaroNazarianDDS #cosmopolitandental #loveyoursmile

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Mover and Shaker Paul Rejer came to the USA (New York) from England at the end of 2012 to take the position of Training and Development Manager for the Professional Referee Organization (PRO). This role developed into Director of Training and Education.

PRO oversees the professional referees who officiate on Major League Soccer (MLS). His role finished at the end of 2017, and he returned to England to work for an online company called “You are the Ref” but he also continued as a consultant for PRO for six months then a Referee Assessor on the MLS for a further three years working remotely. He was missing the USA so much that he moved back to New York in January 2019 but decided to return to England in December the same year.

He is now an Assessor for the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited), assessing referees who officiate in the professional leagues in England. This involves attending games (one or two a week, sometimes three) assessing the referees’ performances, going into the locker room post-match to give the four match officials a debrief. He then fills in an in-depth report which can take a few days. This role can take Paul anywhere in England and Wales, somewhat different to the vast travelling in North America where he used to travel anywhere in the USA and Canada watching MLS games every week.

Paul is renowned for significantly improving referees’ performances. At the end of Paul’s tenure at PRO in 2018 the USA was the only country in the world to have two referees represented at the FIFA World Cup. In 2010 Paul was the coach of the two Assistant Referees who officiated in the World Cup final. He also launched a very successful VAR (Video Assistant Referee) program in the MLS which is now the envy of the world.

Apart from his football work, Paul works three days a week as a Real Estate Lettings negotiator which is another passion of his, particularly as lettings/rentals are in big demand in Birmingham near Paul’s new home in England. He also works closely with a homeless charity and has written a song that he hopes will raise money for the homeless.

While being a very proud Englishman he also loved his time living in the USA (particularly New York) and to this day and regards it as his second home. He spends the fall in New York and at the age of 69 referees high school soccer games almost every weekday. He also goes to tournaments weekends in various states to mentor referees. He is on a mission to visit all 50 States and at moment he has been to 41, he will be going to Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa in September and plans to complete all 50 in 2024. We are thrilled to present Mover and Shaker Paul Rejer as our newest Spectacular Sportsperson. Peachy Deegan interviewed Paul for Whom You Know.

How would you assess the success of soccer as a sport for both men and women in the USA since we last spoke to you in 2015 on both an amateur and professional basis?

Soccer is a gradually growing sport in the USA at both amateur and professional levels. Particularly for younger people who have been exposed to the European scene on television while they were growing up. The problem in my experience is they tend to support European teams (Mainly English and Spanish) rather than MLS teams. At Amateur level soccer as a participation sport is most popular sport in the USA, which is encouraging for the future. I have always said that when soccer becomes the number one choice for college athletes that’s when the USA will win the World Cup.

What do you think of the progress of the NYCFC and other local soccer teams to New York?

NYCFC won the MLS in 2021 which is an amazing achievement, considering other more established teams such as New York Red Bulls have never won it. When a club wins a major trophy, it is part of the club’s history forever and it enhances that club’s status and appeal.

What can Americans learn from Europeans in terms of soccer?

Don’t forget that Soccer (Football) has been going in Europe since the late 1800’s, so have had a much longer time to perfect. However, there are a couple of things that I would change. I believe that the MLS copies other American sports too much and I would make it more European by dropping the preseason ‘draft’, it is a waste of time and increasingly irrelevant as the MLS has grown. I would also introduce relegation, which will never happen in the MLS because the billionaire owners are spoilt babies and won’t accept it (I guess that’s blown my chances of ever becoming MLS Commissioner!). To accommodate relegation, you would have to have two divisions within the MLS, rather than an Eastern and Western conference, that way the relegated clubs would be in MLS 1 and MLS 2 so the relegated clubs would not be dropping into oblivion.

What are the biggest mistakes referees make and why?

I believe that referees make mistakes when judging handball due to the law being very ambiguous and whether a player had “deliberately” handled the ball or not is very subjective.

Tell us about the real estate market and how your experience has been.

I am fortunate enough that I am involved in lettings/rentals and not sales, because currently house prices are dropping in value and monthly rent is increasing. Every time I am booked for potential customers to view a property there are on average ten applicants and a lot of them not only offer the asking price but are prepared to pay more.

Tell us about your charitable endeavors.

I am involved in a homeless charity as I find it desperately sad that in todays society people are sleeping rough. I have written and recorded a song about the homeless and I am currently involved in making a video to go with it. I am hoping that when it is released it will encourage people to make donations.

What would surprise most people about America from your English perspective and for all the states you have been to, what have you enjoyed the most and what have you learned?

I have learned that America is a very diverse and wonderful country, and every state is unique and fascinating. My favorite state in my ‘home’ state of New York where I lived for eight years. I have many friends in the city and slightly upstate in the Hudson Valley, particularly in beautiful places where I have lived in Yorktown Heights, Katonah, Peekskill, Cold Spring and Beacon.

What are your expectations for the states you have yet to visit?

I don’t really know what to expect and that’s the fun part of it. I don’t read up about any state prior to going, so I go with a totally open mind. I obviously know about certain attractions, so I am looking forward to visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to see the presidents and the Alaskan landscape and wildlife. I have wonderful experiences by going off the main highway and going to some small town I have never heard of in the middle of no-where and walk into some bar and talking to locals.

How did covid affect the sport of soccer and your career?

It was weird when teams were playing in empty stadiums with no fans, and it highlighted the fact that fans are integral and important in all professional sports. It affected my job in respect of instead of attending games I had to watch on video, which doesn’t always give you the full prospective of the referees’ performances.

What would you like to do in your career that you haven’t done yet?

I feel fortunate that I have had an amazing career both as an active referee and as a referee coach/manager. When I came to the USA as Training and Development Manager for PRO (Professional Referee Org), I was hoping that one day I would be General Manager but unfortunately it didn’t materialize. So, I would love to be the General manager, running a nation’s profession referee program. I have had a few enquires and interest from a few countries around the world but for one reason or another it didn’t work out. I know I have a proven track record of improving referee performances, plus I was there at the setting up of the PGMOL in England and PRO in the USA so I know how to set up and organize a Professional referee organization.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?

The game’s best honors and awards a referee receives are the prestigious games you get assigned to and the UEFA Cup Final, FA Cup Final and the FA Charity shield are the best honors and awards you can receive.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?

I love Legends Bar just off 5th Ave, down 33rd Street opposite the Empire State Building. Downstairs in the “Football Factory” is the place to go to watch Soccer. On Saturdays you get crowds of various nationalities watching games from the top leagues in England, France, Poland just to name a few. Jack the guy who runs it, says he can get any game in the world that is being televised.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?

Since Lord and Taylor closed it must be Macy’s. I buy all my clothes from there and the prices are a lot cheaper than England!

Would you still want to hire Donald Trump and why?

Yes, he always says what’s on his mind and you will always know where you stand.

How would you assess his presidency?

I moved back to England during his presidency so it would be unfair for me to comment as I don’t have any detailed knowledge of his time in office, plus I don’t really follow politics too much anyway. However, I do know that the current government in England have been terrible. The worst I have ever known. Last year we had three Prime Ministers!

What is the best advice you’ve received in your career and what mentors have influenced you the most?

I was once told before I refereed my first professional game, “If you see something that no-one else in the stadium has seen then you haven’t seen it”. Great advice.

During my professional career I had a fantastic coach called Ron Groves, he was always on hand to offer great advice, and was always supportive.

What is your favorite drink?

Three depending on the time of day – English breakfast tea, Amarone Red wine and most types of Draught Beer.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?

I had a 20-minute conversation with a beautiful, interesting woman and it was only the following day when I discovered it was Demi Moore.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?

Bryant Park Bar and Grill.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature?

Not exactly Manhattan but it’s a book called “A Mindful Death” a murder mystery by Lars Bolin. The storyline commences in beautiful Cold Spring, New York, and ends in Perugia, Italy. Lars works in an office in Manhattan and lives in Dobbs Ferry. It’s a gripping exciting novel that they should make it into a movie.

What is your favorite tv show and why?

Law and Order SVU. They have some great storylines and I love seeing scenes in Manhattan where I have been

What is your favorite movie and why?

“Love Actually” a classic Christmas movie, genius script with 10 different story lines all entwined with each other but with a heartwarming message “Love Actually is all around”. I cry at the end when I watch it about three times every Christmas!

What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?

I would have started earlier, even though I had a great career from starting as a 25-year-old, I could have achieved a lot more had I started ten years younger.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?

Lionel Messi, the best player in the World to play the game the way he plays rather than the basic way I played. He now plays in the MLS for Inter Miami, a great coup for the league.

What would you like to be asked in an interview that you never have been asked, and how would you answer it?

I’d like to be asked “What question would you not liked to be asked in an interview.” And my answer would be “What would you like to be asked in an interview that you never have been asked, and how would you answer it?

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?

Grand Central Station as it’s the first place I arrived at in NYC; it's iconic and original. When I walked there on my way to the office, I used to pinch myself “is this real?” and feel as though I had arrived!

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?

Jogging in Central Park.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?

Hang out in Bryant Park, an under rated beautiful park in all seasons.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?

Paul McCartney as he has always been my favorite musician, I grew up with the Beatles music in the 60’s. He is a genius, and I would love to discuss with him how he wrote such amazing songs.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?

Watching Paul McCartney live at Madison Square Gardens in 2017.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?

With my children I have left the world 3 wonderful and amazing human beings.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan?

Underrated Bryant Park and Overrated the subway, I really struggle with it. So, most of the time I walk or use taxis even though it’s more expensive.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite​ column and what do you like about it?

I like all the articles, but I particularly enjoy reading Cuisine and Drinks as it’s very informative, gives me ideas of places to go and learn about characters.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?

In 2019 I was delighted to be presented with an embroidered England Cap for my services for representing England on FIFA games abroad. Every schoolkid in England grows up dreaming about one day having an England cap. It takes pride of place in my house.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? or 917 288 8473

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