Groundbreaking FA Referee Strategy, gets Ref Supports full support.

I was very happy to be invited to Warwick University to see the launch of  The FA’s National Referee Strategy yesterday. The invite came from Danny Meeson, Head of Refereeing – Technical and Development at The FA .

I have been involved in referee development for over 25 years, some working for the FA and some working independently from The FA with the charity I am CEO of, Ref Support UK.

For some time I have been at the forefront of criticism of how The FA and in particular, The FA Referees Department, support Referees. I have heavily criticised them on National TV, National Radio and in the all of the National Newspapers. In some cases I have been scathing about them.

I believed that the people running the development of referees previously were out of touch and delivered that support of referees in a very autocratic manner that disenfranchised many referees, referee coaches and assessors and instilled a fear of not being able to speak their mind nor stray from the party line.

I am very pleased to say that I saw no evidence of this at the meeting yesterday where over 80 referees from across England attend a Two day residential FA Core Development event and the Launch of the National Referee Strategy.

The atmosphere was relaxed, yet very professional, the event was slick but not overwhelming nor too corporate and the people delivering the event were humorous, engaging and warm. There was also not a necktie in sight.

It was so heartwarming to see with my own eyes, a distinct change in how referee education was being delivered by Danny Meeson and his team. I have known Danny for long time and always viewed him as someone who is a very talented referee educator who faced a bit of a glass ceiling that he wanted to break through but was never allowed to smash that ceiling. I sometimes felt like Dan was on a lead so to speak, always eager to break free and bring referee education in line with the modern game.

He delivered the sessions I attended with an energy that can only be described as “Infectious.” This atmosphere has been missing for years, in my opinion, and it was clear it was getting results as the whole room was fully engaged. Even  the “graveyard shift” of the after lunch session, had the same energy in the room and this was brilliant to see.

There was no pontificating, no holier than thou, no threats of “if you don’t do this, this will happen” The referees in attendance, who were made up of many accents, ages and creeds, had great input that was actively encouraged by Danny. An important point to note was that no input was written off, even if it was not the same as Danny’s, all advice was answered with a soft humour that was not condescending nor abrupt.

Many clips of incidents were shown from different levels of the game and it felt that no matter what level of ref in the room you were, you had the same credibility and you all had valid input, even if some did not display it.

I watched the room carefully and I did not see anyone disengaged, I did not see refs looking uncomfortable and I certainly didn’t see anyone not looking energised and up for it. Even Talksport and Sky Sports News Journalists were having positive input.

It is also clear that senior people at The FA like Andy Ambler, believe in Danny and his team. I could clearly see that Andy had the same engagement levels as the refs and giggled at some of the great comments Danny was making.

All of the signs I was seeing, hearing and feeling yesterday, tells me that The FA are going to deliver on this, it has been a long time since I felt the belief I felt yesterday that refs are certainly acknowledged as an endangered species but they are no longer low on the protected species list.

Don’t get me wrong, Danny is no Sir David Attenborough, but he is certainly not Doctor Dolittle either.

Great work by The Referees Department who have our full support on this.

Posted in Blog.