#Lovethewhistle Programme

#LOVETHEWHISTLE a need for change

We believe there should be some fundamental changes to policy and process to protect referees.Our thoughts are below

Section 1 – County Football Associations

  1. All county FAs must report the assault of any match official to the police immediately (in line with any assault made on a person in any other environment) after receiving the written report from the match official. There is currently too much emphasis on the referee to contact the police. If after the police have contacted the match official concerned and he/she does not want to take matters further, then that is their individual choice.

Proposed Action to be taken – The CFAs and The FAs must understand that match officials are acting on their behalf as guardians of standards therefore, like other organisation such as Virgin Trains, Prison Service, Teachers and NHS working, assaults should automatically be reported to the police force concerned. It must now be as part of their due diligence and protection of the match official and or employees.

County FA’s to introduce into their Policy and Procedures that as soon as they are made aware of an allegation of assault on a match official that their RDO/FDO and Welfare Officer will (within 24 hours) make contact with the Referee to offer personal support and in the process of reporting. If the welfare officer is not immediately available, the welfare officer from a neighboring County FA will be contacted, to confirm that the case has been reported to the Police already. The support offered will include accompanying the Referee to any hearing and a personal visit by both the RDO and WFO within 24 hours (or within the timescale most appropriate to the Referee and the person offering the support), of receiving the written report. Further processes will be considered for those referees under the age of 18 at the time of the assault.

  1. Email every club and league advising them of their responsibilities to referees and outlining possible consequences of any form of assault on referees particularly on those under the age on 18.

Manchester County FA are leading by example by sending out to their clubs and leagues the following statement;

Assault’s on Match Officials, be they few and far between are still too many. The recent stance that a young Referee Ryan Hampson (18) has taken, further illustrates the distress that inappropriate actions and comments of those involved in the game can have on any Referee. We all have a duty of care to protect our match officials from all forms of abuse and I am asking you to remind all your players, parents, volunteers, and coaches that within the game, any sort of abuse will not be tolerated.   The consequences of assaulting match officials, if proven, will result in a ban from all football for 5 to 10 years, this will be in addition to any action that the Police consider taking under Criminal Law.  We also wish to remind everyone involved in the game that you have an obligation to report misconduct, in every form, including abuse of match officials to MFA at the earliest opportunity.  It is not just the Referee who can report such actions to the County FA and it’s important that we as a County FA reiterate this to our Member Clubs.  Manchester FA agree that where there is clear abuse, disrespect and misconduct within the grassroots game then everyone has a responsibility to report it.  With immediate effect Manchester FA confirm that when we receive a written report of assault on a match official we will report it to the relevant police force for them to considering investigating further within the realms of criminal law.

To report an incident that you may have witnessed then please email discipline@manchesterfa.com or contact Manchester FA on 0161 225 1966 for advice or guidance.

Further Actions by Manchester CFA

Shared the current FA disciplinary sanction guidelines and have forwarded the links below to our Website pages detailing discipline and governance.  They are not sure if all County FA’s have similar pages. They will be adding to their Internal Policies and Procedures as soon as possible.



Proposed Action to be taken: The FA to instruct al CFAs to send a similar statement to all their member clubs.

  1. CFAs and Leagues to sign up to the #lovethewhistle (or similar) code which promotes positive behaviours and pro-active approaches towards the treatment of referees. Clubs to agree that if they witness an assault or abuse towards a match official they will report it to the CFA who are then according to the code, be legally obliged to report it to the police. This should not be the responsibility to the referee alone to report.

Proposed Action to be taken: All those involved in football to be reminded they have a responsibility to report abuse/assaults on referees. This to be continually communicated to Clubs, leagues and others through a variety of mediums to ensure the message is clearly understood. There could be a simply change to membership agreement of each county that if a club sees an assault on a match official they must report it to the CFA concerned.

  1. There’s not any automatic post offence/hearing support for referees across the Country. Some CFAs are good at communicating with their referees in these situations and some are poor. The Referee is generally not informed of the result of any hearing. This must be changed in situations which involve actual abuse or assault on the officials. We propose referees receive the result of the hearing within 24 hrs. If they are not happy with the result they do have the right to appeal within 14 days of being notified. Currently not all referees are aware of this, the process needs to be explained fully to the referee at the onset of any hearing.

Proposed Action to be taken:  Chairs of Panels and Secretaries of our Hearing Panels will be reminded that the Match Officials have the opportunity to be informed of the result of the hearing/case.  Upon contact from the Match Official the Secretary of the Case will speak with the Match Official to advise them of the result of the hearing and options available should the Referee not be content with the result of the hearing and whom to contact at The FA.  For Assault cases our Welfare Officer/RDO will continue to make regular (every 14 days for 3 months following the result of the hearing) contact with the Referee to ensure any suitable support is continued and maintained.

  1. If players are found guilty of assault / abuse to referee’s, they must undertake training to identify the route of their behaviour.


  1. Currently if a referee has no desire to be considered for promotion they can opt out and are then not appointed an observer or receive any critique of their performance. Part of the frustration from many players and coaches’ point of view is when a referee is not up to date with current law change. How to apply them and any modern practise and advice offered to improve a referees performance therefore he/she may not be up to the standard expected for that level of operation. All CPD offered by CFAs are not compulsory to match officials who are not in the promotion scheme. This then creates a void that match officials fall into and they can then operate as a match official without receiving any critique for the rest of their “career”. The CFAs have a duty of care to provide match officials to clubs who are at a minimum standard. One observation every two years will be a 100% increase. The recent IFAB law changes are a very good example of what can happen. All county FAs had Law updates but the sessions were not compulsory for referees.


Proposed Action to be taken: All active referees who are outside the promotion scheme should be seen by an observer (or other role a minimum once every 2 years). This will ensure they are up to date with current law and modern refereeing practices including application. If after being observed they still do not meet the expected standard they will be observed again after within 2 months. A mentor to be offered along with appropriate training and development, sanctions applied to those who have no desire to undertake development.


Section 2 – The FA or Other National Entities

  1. Bring the protection of a referees in line with the same as a spectator. If you are found guilty of assaulting a spectator you are banned from all football grounds in England. It should be implemented that you are banned from all football grounds for assaulting a match official. The same applies to fans who encroach on the field of play. Streaker’s for instance, receive banning orders but not players who assault referees. Football hooligans receive banning orders for fighting in the stadium or outside it. If you hit a referee you are not. That seems ridiculous.
  2. Investigate/request the designation of assault on a match official as a hate crime or registered as a hate incident. In addition or instead of investigate designating a referee as a vulnerable role. Such as Nurse, Prison Officer, Hospital worker and Teachers.
  3. Investigate the sine die sanction relating to referees. We will need to check the full implications of this and report appropriately, as far as we are aware the sine die only relates to players offences against other players, we believe this is not the case when it comes to assaults on referees
  4. Central data base for all assaults nationally. If an assault is reported this information to be sent to an independent body. We are happy to collate that information as a charity and have the facility to do so, we will in turn offer independent help/support and advice to the match official involved. Data information provisions can be resolved with registration explanations. Ref Support to work with Kick it Out around the reporting and process.
  5. If the respect programme is reintroduced ensure there is more responsibility on Referees. One of the reasons it could have been more effective is the pre match handshake. It needs to be replaced as it serves as no real purpose and both players and refs don’t like it. One other problem is the lack of commitment required from the Referee. If a team does not attend a respect meeting for a respect league, the team can receive a fine. If the Referee on that league does not turn up he/she does not receive a fine. This is commonly mentioned by teams and is resented. I am sure The FA are aware of other problems that have prevented the Respect program form being more effective but recognising the commitment from the referee is just as important as the commitment from the teams. All the stakeholders in a football match needs to embrace any scheme The FA introduces.
  6. Embed the #lovethewhstle programme (or similar) into charter standard
  7. IFAB Allow referees who operate without a team of 3 to wear head cams or body cams to form evidence going forward if required.

Extensive research by insurance  companies, police forces and now schools is providing significant research to support the use of “body Cams” in all walks of public life. We would like some consideration for a pilot study in England  to allow referees to use body cams or secure encrypted devices to protect themselves and to record positive incidents and behaviour.

Football is allowing more technology into the game and to aid match officials at the most senior levels of the game but football has a responsibility to the majority and clearly the greatest volume of football is at grass roots.

Football over recent years/months/days has seen referees seriously injured due assaults and the perception is that the disciplinary process is inconsistent which is due to many facts, the game is tarnished by abuse and the game should be proactively supporting a test programme leading to a roll out.

  1. Extensive research shows that people “adhere to social norms and change their conduct” once they’re aware that their behaviour is being captured on film, this gives the detection and subsequent disciplinary processes “some certainty”
  2. Self-awareness ensure that the referee acts with appropriateness and prompts both the referees and players to effectively cool down., neither party wants to get caught using inappropriate behaviour.
  3. The body cam/recording device is a of prevention tool
  4. The body cam/recording device can also be a valuable tool for refereeing development
  5. Abuse / assaults will be recorded and there for the governing bodies have robust evidence which is in-convertible
  6. Many cam’s will need to be of a certain specific i.e. water proof ideally to IP65 levels which are available at low cost around £50 with prices reducing almost daily.
  7. Using the cloud for effective storage and sharing.
  8. There would have to be certain privacy controls, and usage protocols such as encryption.
  9. The body cam/recording device has the potential to improve legitimacy of reports and therefore enhance the game
  10. The benefits will ensure that referees remain in the game and work in a safe, abuse free environment


Technical advances are being tested around the world for the benefit of the highest levels of the game, but not at a local grass roots level which is where the majority of the games are played, and the match officials are most exposed.