A new survey has shown that two thirds of referees say they are regularly abused. Over 2000 referees took part in survey conducted by the sporting University of Loughborough. 32% of the participants were Level 7 referees who are junior referees aged 16 or over and 30% were Level 5 referees who are known as Senior County Referees. Referees at these two levels will be involved almost exclusively in local or what’s known as ‘grassroots’ football.
Although relatively few Football or Premier Leagues referees completed the survey, you only have to watch football on television to know that referees at the higher levels are not immune to abuse. Many referees at local level feel that it is part of the problem. Players can often be seen abusing referees without any action seemingly being taken. This leads local players to believe they can do the same without sanction, making life more difficult for referees.
One Premier League referee when faced with this criticism, said imagine the great furore from supporters, who pay a lot of money to watch the game, if he sent off their favourite player just because he called him a name. The fact is that players seem to think that abuse is all part of the game. A player in the Reading league said to a referee last season,’ If you can’t take it, you shouldn’t be a referee’. The real answer to that is ‘If you can’t take having decisions made against you, you shouldn’t be playing football”.
As an FA referee tutor, I can tell you that we get plenty of fourteen year-olds but hardly any adults joining refereeing courses, mainly because they know what referees endure. As Dr Jamie Celand, one of the academics involved in the research has said, ‘referees are the bedrock of the amateur game, without them, the grassroots game would not exist, so this is a warning sign for the FA’.