First Aid For Referees

How what goes around comes around by Dick Sawdon Smith

In the days when I refereed regularly in local Reading League football, I always had a concern that when it came to accidents and injuries at games, most clubs were totally unprepared. A few would have a first aid kit, the contents of which were often inadequate but many would have nothing more than a bucket and sponge, the ‘magic’ sponge as it was known because it was used to cure all injuries on the football field. The ‘spongeman’ was almost certainly untrained

I then met Terry Gibbs who most footballers in town remember as a large, six-foot- something referee with a very loud voice. But his entry into football was brought about by my brother, who when he finished playing in senior football, formed a football team at the printing firm where he worked. Terry was a first aider at the same firm, so was roped in as the team’s first aid man. As was often the case, he also had to double as the club’s linesman. After winning our club linesman award regularly, he thought he would go one stage further and become a referee.

Terry shared my view of the average club’s sponge man’s ability, so we put together a book aimed at local clubs with guidance to be able to give first response action for the type of injuries that happened on a football field, from heart attacks to swallowing chewing gum and everything in between. It covered what the first aid box should contain and the book was the size that it could be kept in there was well. I secured the help of a graphic artist that I had worked with, to provide easy and clear illustrations of the actions needed. We called it ‘So you carry the Sponge’.

It sold reasonably well all over the country mainly to clubs. However, a mention in the Football Referee magazine meant that it was also bought by some referees. At my first instructors course at Lincoln one fellow candidate from the north-east told me he had a copy. Another referee was so impressed with it that he wrote to the Football Referee saying every referee should have a copy. Prompted by this I wrote to the RA suggesting that they stocked the book in their Supplies Department. They turned down my suggestion on the grounds that if a referee treated an injured player using the information in the book and it went wrong, they could be sued for selling him the book. I was annoyed for two reasons. I had negotiated a knock down price for a reprint that meant I might actually make some money out of it but more importantly, I felt I would rather try and save someone’s life than worry about being sued.

This month, Brian Wratten and I as FA Referee Tutors, had to attend an Emergency First Aid course. It is felt that as more of our training courses are practical and based outdoors, which could lead to injuries, (like real football) Tutors should, as part of their licence, undertake some formal first aid training. But what about if we treat someone and it all goes wrong, are we likely to be sued? Well it seems a statement was issued in 2010 by a reputable body saying that no case against a ‘rescuer’ is likely to succeed. Two people have apparently tried with their case being thrown out.

Perhaps I ought to send a copy of that statement to the RA Supplies Department and order that print repeat after all.


Dick Sawdon Smith

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