Will Grassroot referees ever receive more respect?
By Elise O'Brien
It has become a common occurrence for a referee to receive criticism during a match. This can be from spectators, players or managers, but if you are a Premier League referee, you would receive more protection, such as fans being restricted to the stands.
However, this is not the case when you go down the ranks to amateur match officials, who still receive the abuse that any other official would get but its arguably worse for them.
They do not receive the same level of protection as officials higher up the football pyramid do as they do not have that barrier between them and the fans and will be screamed at and offensive language is often thrown at them consistently throughout the match due to decisions that they have made.
Recently there has been a lot of talk about the way in which referees are treated after the incident that occurred with Premier League referee Mike Dean, when a decision that he made to send off two players that was then overturned when the teams appealed. He started to receive death threats from the public.
But with grassroots football returning in England on March 29th, what precautions will be put into place to prevent this kind of abuse happening on a Saturday or Sunday morning in a local park.
In light of its return there is a call for the Sentencing Council for England and Wales to bring in tougher consequences for those who assault referees physically as well as verbally.
There is also a new campaign that was launched to help encourage players, managers and spectators to show more support for officials.
It’s called ‘Give The Ref A Hand’ and the CEO of Ref Support Martin Cassidy states they “Want all clubs at grassroots level, or higher, to clap the referees out on our first weekend back and to just give them a hand to make football positive for everyone. Let's come back [after lockdown] and make the game better together."
This campaign was introduced to help promote a more positive environment for amateur officials to work in and try to prevent the incidents that happen. They hope that by starting this campaign at grassroots level, it will make its way into the professional game.
Overall, it is nice to see that there is awareness of the kind of environment that amateur officials face on a weekly basis. Whether this will stop the abuse they receive is hard to tell, as at the end of the day you cannot stop people, such as spectators, from doing it as they are in a public place.