Few know the heightened level of duty and responsibility required to be a referee. The role requires perfect positioning, split-second decision-making, careful judgment, and above all else a sense of calmness and control in the heat of a game. And it goes without saying - a referee requires an impeccable knowledge of the rules of the game.
Coaches patrolling the sidelines, thousands of frenzied fans in the stadium, and thousands of television viewers frequently challenge “the call” made by the guy wearing the stripes.
Enter Jake Ireland. Born in Hamilton (1946) and raised in Burlington, Jake’s roots are strong in the community. His genealogy can be traced back to Joseph Ireland, one of Burlington’s earliest settlers. The Ireland House Homestead (Museum) on Guelph Line pays tribute to the Ireland family. No doubt Joseph would be proud of his great, great-grandson for many reasons but especially proud of his accomplishments as one of the premier football officials – at all levels – in Canada.
Jake attended Burlington Central High School where he served on the BCHS Student Council as well as participated in basketball, cross country, track, and curling. Upon graduation, Jake enrolled at McMaster University. While a student at Mac a friend asked him to referee in the newly formed Burlington Minor Football Association. (BMFA). That planted the seed for the young official. He joined the Lakeshore Football Officials Association and soon he was “on the field” officiating high school and leagues – at all levels – in the area.
Jake was a natural. He was recognized as an exceptional official. He had an even temperament, extensive knowledge of the rules, and a judicious sense of “what call to make”. On June 12 1979 Jake got “the call” to join the officiating crew for a game between the Montreal Alouettes and the Ottawa Roughriders. And as they say – “the rest is history.”
Jake officiated in 15 Grey Cups – 12 as head referee. In fact, he served in four consecutive Cups (1985-1988) as the head official. Number 62’s final call was the 96th Grey Cup in Montreal (November 23, 2008). His distinguished career spanned 30 years (1979-2008). In 2009 the highly respected official was appointed the lead replay official for the newly established “CFL Replay Command Centre.” This video innovation was designed to review on-field challenged calls. Jake handled his new role with his usual aplomb – and- with rare instances of controversy.
Today, Jake continues to referee at the local level in minor football serving as a mentor to aspiring young officials. He often is a clinician across the country sharing his personal officiating experiences with the “next generation” of officials.
In 2003 Jake was named to the Lakeshore Football Officials Association – Wall of Fame. And in 2013, John “Jake” Ireland was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame (September 2013 –Edmonton). Clearly, Jake Ireland is a respected official – in fact, a legend – at all levels of football in Canada.