REFEREE COLUMN BY BILL EATON: Trying to keep our referees in the game

THE FA has identified that the major loss of players from the game is around the ages of 14 to 16.

A great deal of hard work is done by the FA in trying to improve retention in these age groups.

At the same time though, through refereeing courses at the Lancashire FA, we see the majority of newly qualified referees are at the same age groups. Poachers turning in to game keepers springs to mind.

Nationally, the FA says around 20 per cent of grassroots football matches (11v11) are played without a qualified referee.

It sounds a large amount, but how much is that due to people not wanting to become a referee or referees leaving the game?

Or is it mainly down to leagues like the Bolton, Bury and District Football League and the North Bury Junior Football League not only retaining teams but increasing numbers each year?

There can only be so many referees in an area.

Children’s leagues around the country also have to cope with the problem of referees wanting to improve themselves and gain promotions, this can only be done by moving into men’s football.

With the majority of quality men’s leagues playing Saturday afternoons, Saturday morning leagues will always suffer.

Each year, though, the FA loses around 7,000 referees from football. It sounds a massive amount but there is a lot of natural wastage.

Over the last few years we have seen a small drop-off of referees in the Bolton, Bury and District Football League when they leave school and start at college.

Referees taking up Saturday jobs also takes its toll, but the biggest drop-off is when referees move off to university, with between 15 and 20 referees leaving the BBDFL each year for this reason.

Key to retaining referees is that all players, managers, coaches and parents adhere to the FA Respect campaign. Remember, it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure we make children’s football a friendly environment, not only for the players but also referees.

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