Eradicating abuse of referees in football

We are teaming up with Oxfordshire Youth Football League to launch an app to address poor touchline behaviour.

Oxfordshire FA (OFA) has joined with the Oxfordshire Youth Football League (OYFL) to address the increase in abhorrent touchline behaviour, especially that aimed at young referees.

Last season saw an increase in reports of inappropriate behaviour and language by a few coaches and spectators aimed at referees, and young referees in particular, and this is something that needs to be addressed. 

In youth football, there are a substantial number of young referees learning their trade and respecting them is a major priority for all managers, coaches, players and parents but there are a few who feel it is okay to verbally abuse these young people which clearly it is not! A referee will not abuse a player, a parent, or a coach and yet the reverse happens all too often, and this MUST CHANGE!

refereeing in oxfordshire tallWhilst trying to address this issue it has become apparent there has been a lot of anecdotal evidence of teams regularly being accused of poor practice or worse, but more factual evidence is needed to support the work of eradicating this unacceptable behaviour.

As such Andrew Raisbeck, an OFA Respect Champion and referee, has worked to produce a simple App that will make the reporting of such incidents much easier for referees on the OYFL and this App, available on Apple and Android devices, will be trialled from the start of the 2023/24 season.

The App will allow the OYFL to analyse the data from all levels of OYFL football to identify consistent offenders and take appropriate punitive action including;

  • Sending observers to report on offenders against specific, consistent criteria.
  • Appointing 3 officials to a game at the offending team’s expense.
  • Obliging offenders to undertake an education programme before coaching again.
  • Calling in club officials to a meeting with League Committee members 
  • Applying sanctions via stepped approach which might result in the removal of fixtures, the removal of coaches or, as a last resort, the removal of teams from the league.

The OFA will also analyse the data and will take disciplinary action again any individual, team or club if a report meets the disciplinary thresholds.

The need to eradicate this abhorrent behaviour is crucial for the sake of the game we all love, but it is equally important to highlight the good behaviour of the many teams who work hard to create the right environment for all young players and referees and to share this best practice with all OYFL teams. This App will allow referees to do this. Throughout the season we will look to highlight and reward the great behaviour we hear about through the OFA website and social media channels, and in doing so, give other teams strong role models to follow.

Referees will of course need to play their part in this initiative by:

  • Being professional, courteous, knowledgeable and fit
  • Applying the Laws of the Game consistently and taking any on-field action needed.
  • Ensure they report ALL incidences so action can be taken.

Crucially, referees who take the trouble to report problems will receive support and feedback so they know what has happened as a result and they get any help they need to continue their refereeing adventure.

Nigel Saverton the OFA Education Safeguarding Referee Development Officer said: “The majority of coaches and spectators treat our young referees with the same respect as the players but unfortunately, we have seen an increase in cases where this is not always the case. Hopefully, the App will be used predominantly to report excellent behaviour, but we will be taking action against those teams whose behaviour falls well below the expectation of our young people.”

Kenny Moore the OYFL Chairperson said: “Whilst the majority of matches take place in a friendly and respectful atmostphere, unfortunately there has been a growing number of incidents of poor and, in some cases, completely unacceptable behaviour from a minority of individuals. By making this simple App available to referees, we hope that increased reporting, with follow-up support for referees and action against those responsible for the poor behaviour will help make a difference on match day, as well as highlighting the positive side of grassroots football.”

It is hoped that this App will only be used for reporting best practice, but as a youth football league and a County FA, we want to make it crystal clear that there is no place for any abuse of officials who have every right to enjoy their role as much as everyone else.

Where there are incidents both the OYFL and OFA will show zero tolerance towards any abuse aimed at the officials, without whom WE DON’T HAVE A GAME.