All referees under the age of 18 will be provided with a YELLOW armband and will be asked to wear them whilst officiating on youth and adult football leagues within Bedfordshire.
The Bedfordshire FA has seen a decline in the retention of young referees and believe a major factor of this is the level of verbal abuse they are subjected to whilst officiating football.
The Bedfordshire FA recently surveyed young referees and asked for their feedback regarding verbal abuse during games. A young Bedfordshire female referee who is aged 15 replied:
“My mum arranged for me to start refereeing with boys and girls leagues straight away. She told the coaches of both teams that I was new; in my first u13 boys match, I started nervous, also struggled to hide the fact I was upset on the pitch as the coach of one of the teams aggressively shouted all the way through, questioning my decisions. This made me nervous and scared, but I was determined to carry on. I thought it must be obvious I was young and that surely all teams couldn’t be like that one.
As time progressed some games were fine, but others really weren’t. Managers and parents shouting about my decisions meant that players felt they could too. I quickly lost confidence. My mum tried the to get support from referee mentors and though I did get some help I would have benefited from having more, especially in the first games.
My mum became nervous herself, as she had to listen to parents on the side questioning my decisions and saying things like: “where do they get these referees from!”. She tried to report this behaviour.
At the moment I’m just refereeing teams who are supportive of me. If I don’t like the way a coach treats me, I just don’t go back. It doesn’t seem like referees’ matter and because it felt like nothing was going to change, I thought what’s the point reporting anything anymore and came up with this solution instead.
I’d like people to know that yes, I’m doing this as a job, and I’m getting paid for doing it, but the reason I persevere is because I love football. Sometimes though I think it would be easier just to get a job where people don’t think it’s acceptable to shout and swear at children (though they shouldn’t be shouting at anyone). If things don’t change, I might do that.”
Bedfordshire FA, Workforce Development Officer, Jose Gomes said:
“We are asking referees to wear a yellow arm bands so spectators and coaches can visually identify the referee is under the age of 18, and think twice about verbally abusing them, even if they make a mistake.
It’s Time to Stop any form of abuse to any referee and allow them to develop and enjoy their game. Referees will make mistakes, but this is no less than any other player during a game.
The safeguarding and development of all referees are paramount to the Bedfordshire FA and I hope this incentive will stop the decline of young referees re-registering and keeping them in the game we all love.”