Earlier this season a fourteen year old girl referee, Emily Dyke, posted an appeal on grassroots Facebook. She said that she had been abused by parents when refereeing matches for 8 and 9 year olds. ‘I find it difficult to deal with,’ she said. ‘and I am considering not doing it anymore. I am not looking for sympathy but I want people to realise that I am just a child doing something I love. I’m learning that to referee you need to have a thick skin (whatever that means) and to ignore people but it is hard when the name calling continues’.
Her father who watches her games has spelt out the foul and abusive language she has suffered and you have to wonder if these people would eff and blind like this to their own fourteen year old daughters. When he has asked the parents to stop swearing they have said, ‘she’s a ref, she should expect abuse.’ Really? Apart from anything else who do they expect to referee their matches, Mark Clattenburg? These are young people learning the job. It’s a big jump from passing an exam on the laws to applying them.
I was reminded of this when I read in an American publication last week, an interview with Margaret Dromka who refereed at the Women’s World Cup in Canada this June. Margaret was thirteen when she started refereeing (a year younger than permissible here) and in her first game she said she was ‘scared out of my mind’.
‘It’s incredibly intimidating to be a kid and have adults yelling at you when you are truly not an expert yet.’ she said, ‘you’re out there doing the best you can and hoping that the kids on the field can have a good time’.
I am pleased to say that Emily has decided to continue refereeing and I’m not suggesting that she, or any of our other young referees, will emulate Margaret and become a World Cup referee, but come on, let’s give them a chance.