Northern NSW Football has taken the initiative to improve the number of referees across its region.
NNSWF CEO David Eland and NNSWF Referees Manager Brad Carlin facilitated a forum at the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility on 3 August which focused on addressing the decline in referees this season.
Representatives from NNSWF’s seven member zones responsible for the implementation of local competitions, including the appointment of referees, were invited to contribute.
The forum included in-depth analysis of data from the last five years including referee numbers, gender, age and other demographics, as well as a review into the findings of a recent survey of active referees from throughout northern NSW.
Eland said referees were a key stakeholder and critical to creating an enjoyable football experience.
“The declining number of referees is a significant risk which has the potential to undermine the growth of the nation’s largest club-based sport,” Eland said.
Delegates identified recruitment, retention, improving the match day experience, ongoing development and appointments as strategic priorities.
Carlin said the forum had been constructive.
“The data and survey results guided discussion and determined priorities,” Carlin said.
NNSWF is committed to leading the following priorities:
– Identify and train additional referee accreditation course presenters
– Pilot implementation of Level 4 Referee Courses in high schools
– Implement focus groups to better understand why referees are leaving the game
– Increase awareness of the Spectator Code of Behaviour and provide club duty officers with training which
specifically assists them to respond to breaches
– Pilot publishing sanctions imposed on clubs and players related to referee abuse
– Appoint and train Referee Welfare Officers
– Develop a community/youth referee assessment app
– Consider appointing additional P-T Referee Education and Development Officers
The impact of poor behaviour aimed at referees cannot be ignored, with 50 per cent of referees who are unlikely to officiate next season identifying referee abuse as the main reason why they will not be returning.
“Only 30 per cent of referees from 2019 are officiating this season,” Carlin said.
“Enough is enough. Players, coaches and spectators need to address their behaviour towards referees. We simply can’t recruit enough referees to replace the officials leaving because they’ve had enough of the unacceptable behaviour.”
NNSWF refreshed its annual respect campaign this season which included a number of young referees sharing their poor experiences.
“Increasing the number of referees is crucial ahead of the projected surge in demand to play football in response to the Socceroos qualifying for their fifth consecutive FIFA Men’s World Cup later this year and the long-awaited FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil next year,” Eland said.
There is one referee for every 40 players participating in community competitions. The lack of referees is exacerbated by the fact that up to 50 per cent of match officials are unavailable on any given weekend.
“I plead with players, team officials, office bearers, parents and spectators to consider their interaction with our valuable referees. Don’t leave it to someone else, step up and respectfully address inappropriate behaviour,” Eland said.
“The decline in the number of referees is an issue that requires a collective response from the vast football community. All members of the football community are encouraged to consider becoming a match official ahead of next season.”