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Referees, and what is positive coach and parent participation?

This week I participated in a FA & WJYL incentive where the aim is to improve coach and parent engagements with the game and referees. The findings, contrary to the mainstream media hype may surprise you, and should guide everyone in the game to understand and emphasise with referees.

Let’s consider why referees leave the game and some local facts. Most referees in grassroots football are U18, generally still playing the game and ultimately referee to learn a new skill, give-something-back to the game and earn some pocket money. Thereon, if we think about their life transition post 18, some will go to university, some to college, many to work and all start their adult life, resulting in refereeing becoming a second thought. This is further endorsed by WJYL stating that in recent years only one referee had quit-the-game due to abuse, which is clearly too many but far less than the 7000 stated by The Guardian.

When we consider respect in the game, I like many were part of football in the 80s where I can assure those not present that the game has changed so much for the better that it seems a different game. But we shouldn’t rest on these morals and implementing existing best practices will encourage respect in the game. So, do you know… 

  • Each team should provide respect marshals and when appropriate appoint officials to run-the-line. These are the responsibility of the teams… not referees. 
  • Managers, coaches and parents have an obligation to support the game and referees by demonstrating control, empathy and respect as ALL referees make mistakes and like coaches and players ALL referees are learning on-the-job.

It still amazes me that we expect children to perform with skill, energy, endeavour and a decorum of respect, whilst in most games they are being shouted at, contradicted and regrettably at times abused from the side lines. Would you teach children mathematics in the same way?

‘’The referee was rubbish’’ ’’that was never a free-kick’’ ‘’never off-side’’

Managers and coaches have a responsibility to score referees without bias and subjection. All comments above are spouted on a weekly basis, but how can referees and The FA learn from such drivel? When scoring referees clearly mark down perceived mistakes but importantly detail circumstances. ‘’The referee was rubbish’’ should read ‘’the referee missed many fouls because they never left the centre circle’’. The FA can then do something with such detail, but nothing with subjective sour-grapes after a defeat.

I was incredibly pleased to learn that so far this season, WJYL has recorded average scores of 87% across grassroots games so clearly mistakes are not prevalent, and these mainly young referees are doing a great job!

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