Referee Alan Kelly to leave Airtricity League for new role in America

Following more than 350 games and fourteen years officiating in the League of Ireland, the 38-year-old will move across the Atlantic at the end of the season for pastures new
Alan Kelly, Ireland's premier referee, has announced he is to leave the Airticity League and FIFA Panel at the end of the season ahead of a move to America where he will take up a role with the Professional Referee Organisation (PRO).

The 38-year-old graduated from the FAI’s first ever School of Excellence for Referees in 1999 and will assume the position of Assistant Training and Development Manager of the PRO in America before making a decision on whether or not to continue his refereeing career in Major League Soccer.

However, the Cork-born official will carry out all refereeing commitments, both domestically and internationally, this side of the Atlantic between now and the end of the calendar year before moving. 

Kelly began refereeing in 1994 and soon found his feet in the Munster Senior League before being selected to take charge of the FAI Cup Final between Derry and Limerick City in 2000, the first of four domestic cup finals he officiated.

He has risen rapidly up both the UEFA and FIFA ranks in recent years and has been on the game's governing bodies' roster for over a decade. Kelly has refereered ties in the Champions League, Europa League as well as World Cup and European Championship qualifiers as well as plying his trade domestically in the League of Ireland.

The PRO is an independent company responsible for managing the officials programme in professional soccer leagues in the United States and Canada. They 
work alongside the US Soccer Federation, Major  League Soccer and the Canadian Soccer Association among others.

The organization’s targets are to increase the quality of the officiating in the US and Canadian professional leagues, develop more professional-quality officials at a younger age and produce officials who will represent the United States and Canada in FIFA competitions. Kelly admits that it is a challenge he is eagerly looking forward to.

"This is a very exciting opportunity for me on a professional level. To work with a full-time professional organisation and dedicate my time to refereeing, be it from an education and development perspective or on  the field of play, is something that I have always aspired to and it is an opportunity that myself and my family are very much looking forward to," said Kelly, who is married with two children.

"Leaving the Airtricity League and UEFA (as an International Referee) is something that I had not thought about and it was an incredibly difficult decision to make. However, once I found that this opportunity offers a very different challenge, it would have been a regret that would have followed me around had I not accepted it."

The Chairman of the FAI Elite Referees Committee, John Ward, said they fully supported Kelly’s decision to take up his new role in America.

"It is a great opportunity for Alan and his family and he goes to America with our best wishes. As one of the first graduates from our School of Excellence he has been an excellent role model for young referees and he has shown those coming behind him what can be achieved if they apply themselves properly to their careers. Obviously, Alan will be a loss to Irish refereeing but his departure offers others the chance to step up to the plate and take his place and I am confident that they will," said Ward.

Whilst refereeing at the top level, he has previously shared the workload of becoming a personal trainer but took up the profession in a full-time capacity shortly after becoming part of FIFA's list of officials. Several reports suggest he will increase his salary dramatically with the move.