There has been a lot of speculation about a national strike by grassroots referees in protest at widespread and unacceptable instances of match officials being abused.
You Are The Ref is against this proposal, which has emanated from calls by a young referee in one particular part of the country.
This is not because we don’t believe there is a problem in this area or because we lack sympathy for officials on the ground. Far from it. The team here ran a recent campaign, highlighting abuse cases and calling for action on this cultural malaise in football.
We have expressed our concerns about the lack of respect shown towards our grassroots referees. I have also emphasised the need for referees to report incidents in an accurate manner.
Further, I hope the Football Association resurrect the Respect campaign and support it with a raft of sanctions that act as a true deterrent. For instance, my view is that where an assault on a referee takes place this should be dealt with by the police with the FA duly copied in with the facts. However, we also believe the solution lies in communication and education.
I am aware that the FA are currently in the process of recruiting a Respect Officer, soon to be appointed.
Our focus is on supporting young referees to enjoy the game – as is their right – and to progress within it. A withdrawal would be counter-productive in my view.
Today I received the results of a survey carried out by the Sheffield Referees Association and frankly I was delighted to see that they are very much against the organisation of a referees strike. We at You Are The Ref have been clear that we do not support strike action.
The preferred route is to ensure that when young referees take to the field they have been suitably trained in conflict management and how to cope and deal with abuse from parents on the touchline.
Mentoring and coaching are the key factors in ensuring that referees remain in the game and that they do not become one of those 7,000 who hang up their boots up at the end of each season.
The basic referees course would appear not to adequately prepare referees – as there is less than a 1% failure rate nationally. Every year around 7,000 referees are trained and a similar number lost.
Unless mentors are appointed to support the first few games of a new referee there is a higher chance of drop-out. The course requires this in two of the first six games but in reality we hear that this is not happening.
So more power to the FA in dealing with this issue proactively. A strike is not in the interests of football and something we do not wish to see.