A look back at 2022 for RSUK.
The CEO of the FA launches an independent investigation into allegations that complaints about racism at The FA Referee Department were covered up. The investigation was instructed after receiving a written statement from Ref Support UK. The statement included evidence from a former member of the FA Referees Department. The RSUK complaint included a number of worrying incidents and comments by a senior member of The FA Referees Department.
During the investigation the retirement of David Elleray was announced but no wrongdoing was uncovered.
The FA announce that they will ask IFAB at the March AGM for permission to deliver a Body Cam Pilot. Ref Support make a public statement praising The FA for “Listening to our four year campaign to allow body cams to be used by grass roots referees”
It was recognised and noted by RSUK that it was interesting that only a month after the announcement of Mr Elleray’s retirement the FA change their stance against Body cams.
Ref Support UK meet the sports minister Nigel Huddleston MP to discuss ref abuse and the effects on referees’ mental health.
IFAB’s AGM which was due to discuss a Body Cam pilot is postponed after Russia invades Ukraine. Date rearranged for June.
RSUK Launch the “Referees Kit Bank” in response to the cost-of-living crisis RSUK noted that many referees cannot afford kit to start refereeing on top of the fee for the referees’ course. It was also noted that many referees have gained weight since the pandemic and some have lost jobs and cannot afford larger kit. The kit bank is a huge success and has helped many referees across the UK. The addition to donate kit or cash or both to the Kit Bank has also ensured we can buy brand new kit as well as offer pre used. The Kit is expanded to enable RSUK to pay for referees’ courses as well as referees kit.
Donations can be made via this link: https://refsupport.enthuse.com/#!/
The Independent Investigation instructed by The FA in January concludes with a statement “The investigation found No first-hand evidence to support the allegations however, the investigation did provide some insight into broader cultural issues amongst the refereeing community that need to change.
Furthermore, we are thoughtful about the fact that several witnesses did not feel comfortable in speaking out about issues in their working environment. It is essential that everyone that works in and around The FA, at any level, past or present, should have the confidence to bring forward any concerns that they have about inappropriate behaviour.”
The FA refused to make public the findings of the Independent Investigation even though the Investigation had received a high amount of national and international media coverage.
Nevertheless, Ref Support thank the FA for their honest efforts and open dialogue with RSUK during this process and look forward to working closer with then in the future.
The FA stated, ” more generally, the investigation did provide some insight
into broader cultural issues amongst the refereeing community that need to change.”
IFAB Approve the FA requests for a body cam pilot. This ends a 5 year solo campaign by RSUK to change World Football Law to allow a body cam pilot.
The success of this campaign is recognised and celebrated around the World. RSUK release as statement “ This is the most progressive positive move in the protection of grassroots referees for decades” and thank The FA for their support.
Ref Support UK meet with The FA to discuss and have input on the New Referee Strategy to be launched in early 2023. A range of issues are discussed including points deductions for those teams that are found guilty of verbally abusing/threatening a child referee and framing every abuse of a child referee as a primary safeguarding issue.
Preventing teams from promotion if their discipline standards are not at the required standard was also discussed.
RSUK referenced that Japan who had fewer yellow cards than Senegal in the group stages and qualified for the knock stages of the World Cup in 2018 solely because of their discipline.
It was noted by RSUK that the FA already have regulation for preventing the promotion of teams if their ground grading/facilities is not up to the required standard but not if their discipline is not up to the required standard.
Ref Support UK attend a panel at Villa Park for Inaugural Black, Asians and Mixed Ethnicity Referee Conference delivered by BAME Ref Support. The event provided a unique platform to discuss well documented challenges of lack of Black, Asians and Mixed Ethnicity Referees at elite level in our national sport of football with representation from key stakeholders, decision makers and cross section of active referees in the game, working together to find solutions for a more inclusive and diverse officiating workforce.
This event was the first of its kind in refereeing, offering a unique platform for debate, education and challenge, with a collaborative mindset approach to devising a long-lasting solution roadmap and sustainable legacy.
Photo Courtesy of UCFF
After numerous incidents where Managers have abused and behaved inappropriately towards match officials, RSUK write to the League Managers Association (LMA) to register our concern about the rise in abuse towards Match officials.
Their poor reply was acknowledge hoWever, we feel communication between us and the LMA will continue as we see no end to the abuse match officials receive in front on millions of TV viewers every week and the LMA must do more to improve the situation.
RSUK publicly condemn Jurgen Klopp’s behaviour during the Liverpool v Man City match citing his behaviour as disgraceful and one that encourages and desensitises ref abuse at grass roots level/ RSUK call for him to be charged. The campaign was aided with the statement that “Fools use passion as the currency to justify ref abuse” The majority of media outlet runs with the graphic across the UK.
Jurgen Klopp is charged and found guilty of a FA charge of Improper conduct. He is fined £30,000. RSUK begin a national campaign for the FA to appeal the Panel’s decision to not issue a touch line ban.
We reference The FA’s case in 2018 when they appealed a similar decision involving Jose Mourinho. The FA listen and appeal the panel’s decision which results in a one game ban for Jurgen Klopp.
Paid our respects to Barry Firmin who was a true referee’s man and someone who saw past the politics in refereeing and helped us in our early stages. We will also remember and appreciate the help Barry gave us. Rest in Peace mate.
We plan to announce in 2023 an annual award in Barrys name to remember Barry for the positive support and work he did in helping referees.
After discussions with Lord Mann the subject of ref abuse and its effects on referees’ mental health was discussed in the House of Lords, significantly this has prompted further discussions with other football stakeholders.
RSUK support Uniting Communities For Football (UCFF) with free referee kit and apparel for some referees in the group. UCFF was born from an idea of Patsy Andrews and impressive grass roots referee. After 20 years as a grassroots football referee her dream was to encourage more people to become referees. In March 2022, she decided enough was enough, she was fed up with not seeing enough diversity of referees. So, she set a plan into motion to recruit and support officials from Black and Brown Heritage.
The UCFF put on my first event under the name of Uniting Communities for Football (UCFF). Sadly, not everyone could understand why she made the decision to focus on her community, she was called a racist, made to feel like a nobody, many people did not want to support her because of this.
Following another one of her events in June 2022, she raised funds for new referees to complete the Basic Referee Training. UCFF made history also, when she recruited 20 referees who will receive additional support from Kick It Out, BAME Referee Support and Ref Support UK. Her aim is that no referee is left unsupported. Something she missed out on, a Black Female who dared to step out of her comfort zone.
We believe our strategy to address all forms of referee abuse at all levels publicly, will continue to bring about positive changes and keeps the subject or ref abuse on the national media agenda.
As we approach 2023, we are hopeful that the body cam pilot will prove to reduce the abuse and assaults of match officials and help the training and development of grassroots referees.
We thank all of those who support us including many of the national media outlets, the press, individual journalists, our ambassadors and particularly, those referees who are prepared to stand up and be counted by their public support of us and our aims to make the game safer for all referees.
We will keep the momentum up to continue our journey with a strong desire and determination to ensure football and sport in general, fully understands that refs are not fair game for abuse and assaults.
The Trustees and Ambassadors of Ref Support UK.
Ref Support UK is a Registered Charity 1171000