Supporting Referees is everyone’s responsibility
Ryan Hampson, a Manchester based referee, is leading the call for grassroots referees to strike this weekend.I am pleased that the issues of supporting referees and addressing poor behavior are being given national attention. We have had media requests over the last 24 hours and Colin Hills, our Referees’ Officer, and I have been on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
It is important that we talk about these issues, but a referee strike is not the answer. There are 2 issues that Ryan is raising: Is abuse to referees acceptable, and secondly is the game doing enough to support referees if they are abused? The answer to the first question is no. Abuse to referees of any kind is not acceptable.
In terms of support for referees, in Cambridgeshire we are well placed to be able to provide the support needed. As a small county, we know our referees and we know our clubs, so we can have a referee focused approach when the task of appointing referees is carried out each week. We can look at the game to ensure it is appropriate for the referee, depending on his or her experience and development needs.
This is just as important as ongoing training to develop the skills of game and people management, which are both challenging and take time. At times, the behavior of individuals on and off the field is unacceptable, and if this happens, the referee has a key role to play in reporting this to the County FA. Action can then be taken through either disciplinary or respect sanctions. There are clear processes and policies set out, but issues need to be reported.
Fortunately we haven’t had an assault on a referee in the way Ryan describes for many years. If a referee does have an issue during a game, we’ll be straight on the phone to provide the support needed. Colin Hills and Chris Abbott at Cambs FA are brilliant at this, and judging from the feedback from referees in a recent survey, they really value that support.
The game does need to eradicate incidents of abuse of all types, so I hope that the profile of Ryan’s campaign will make everyone think about their own behavior to ensure that the game is an enjoyable experience for everyone- including the referee.