Message from Leisure Leagues
We have noticed some comments on these social media channels from a tiny minority of individuals who purported to work for Leisure Leagues over a decade ago, and make unsubstantiated comments about our organisation. It is always a pity when individuals arrive on social media sites, clearly disgruntled about something in the distant past, and wish to get a grievance off their chest but do not produce any facts to support their grievance. So let us provide some facts:
Leisure Leagues are the world’s largest provider of small-sided football. In the UK alone we have over 600 separate leagues, and have been established longer than any other small-sided organiser. But we set out our position, right at the start, to take a different view from the FA, particularly in view of discipline.
Our view was, and has always been the same, that the referee of any match is the sole decision maker, and his decisions can never be overturned after the game or at any time. We also believe that referees should have maximum protection. So for years we have had an insurance policy which is in excess of local County FA’s policy for referees, we have never taken the word of a player or team over that of a referee in over 30 years of operation, and we do not have committees where a referee’s decision is overturned which undermines the role of the match official. Quite simply, if a referee says something to us, wants a player banned, a team removed, or any action taken, then we do it. No questions asked. The referee is king in our organisation. Indeed, in 2002 the FA approached us and asked if they could look at our discipline policy and use it for themselves. When they saw how strong our discipline policy was they told us that they would never get it passed all the County Chairmen because it took the power away from their committees and handed it back to the referees.
We also believe that when there is any sort of violence on the field of play it is a matter for the police to deal with, and not a matter for the FA, the organiser or anybody else. It doesn’t matter whether violence takes place on the street, in the park or on a football field – it is the same. The police should deal with it.
Our referees also have the power, in all of our leagues, to ban individual players or teams, for any reason, or indeed for no reason. If a referee simply thinks a player is going to be a troublemaker then even if the player has done nothing, that player is eliminated from the league. The referees have absolute power, absolute control and are never, ever undermined. There are no committees to overturn a decision, or water it down.
Of course, there are individuals, perhaps such as the ones who have posted on this channel, who don’t agree with this. They may believe that it is undemocratic, or that a committee should have the final say over and above the referee. They can keep their view. We can have ours. The fact that we are oversubscribed for referees in almost all of our leagues across the country tells us something. Because referees know that when they work for us they receive absolute maximum protection, way above what they would get anywhere else.
We also have extremely high standards. We expect all our Match Officials to be highly knowledgeable, professional, and assertive and to ensure that our leagues are well managed so that we can offer safe, competitive sport to thousands of players each week.
We are seen by everybody else in the industry as the leaders in our field. Over the years we have been copied by the FA, Powerleagues, Goals and many other league organisers. If we have a referee who doesn’t confirm to our high standards, and who doesn’t enforce strict discipline at the league, then we won’t work with them. In one of the posts an individual stated that our referees do not have qualifications. What qualifications does he mean? An FA qualification? Let us put the record straight.
The FA is an entirely separate company to us. They have their own qualifications. We have our own set of different qualification criteria, far higher than the FA’s criteria. About 50% of our Match Officials do not have an FA qualification. Why on earth should they? We don’t want people schooled in the art of allowing unruly players to get away with things, or using rules that are completely alien to the small-sided game. An FA qualification is no use to us or our staff. All our Match Officials are trained separately, many from scratch, and that is why we are seen as the leaders in our field.
Fortunately, it is only a very tiny minority of people who make remarks such as those we have seen on these posts. Usually they are FA people, terrified of the tidal wave that has been Leisure Leagues over many years, disrupting the monopoly that the FA has on football. At other times they are disgruntled ex-referees who we tried out for a session or two but who we found were just not up to the standard required.
We support what Martin Cassidy and Ref Support are doing. They take a serious, strong line against any form of abuse against referees. They do not support, as we do not support, the weak and lily livered responses that the FA usually has to abuse that referees get, often in 11-a-side football, around the country.
Quite frankly, the sooner that the FA and 11-a-side football realises that treating referees with maximum respect, and ensuring that respect is enforced with complete strength, is the only way forward.