Ref school for young men in black

Suffolk FA's Referee Secretary Tony Trevers is hoping a new refereeing academy will halt the growing shortage of referees in youth football.

By Stuart Watson

Suffolk FA's Referee Secretary Tony Trevers is hoping a new refereeing academy will halt the growing shortage of referees in youth football.

Trevers, who started in his post in July, said: “If there is one area where there is quite a considerable shortfall in referees, it is in the youth leagues.

“New referees face a lot of problems when they first start out. If you are on a public rec and there are parents giving you foul abuse there is nothing you can do.

“I know, from talking to people, that some referees go through all the training and then drop out after the first few games because they are finding it so difficult.

“It is an ongoing problem with parents on the sidelines. It's incredible that there is always ten or so people telling the ref they know better, but I've heard of situations where the referee gets injured and no one on the touchline will volunteer to take over.”

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In order to combat this problem, the Suffolk FA started up the Youth Referee Academy at the start of September in order to produce a new generation of referees.

Trevers said: “One of the ironies for new referees is that the hardest level to officiate at is, I think, youth football, but that is the only place they can start.

“This new academy looks to nurture any aspiring referees under the age of 18 through that first difficult period.

“Once they have passed their two exams, they have to referee a minimum of six games under supervision before they can qualify.

“What that means is you haven't got that loneliness factor early on. It's those first three or four games that are difficult and, in most cases, once they have got six or seven games under their belt they are home and dry.”

The Young Referee Academy has already forged strong links with Ipswich Town Football Club, with young referees being assigned to the club's under-9 to U13 academy matches.

Trevers said: “I can't praise Ipswich Town enough. At the Ipswich v Colchester match recently for example, they organised for us to take all the young referees down to see the match officials and referee assessor both before and after the game for a Q&A session.

“Another instance I can remember is that one of our young referees was having problems with his movement and positioning because he kept taking up the positions he was used to as a player.

“What the club did was allow this particular lad to referee one of their academy matches, but with level three referee Carl Fitch running alongside him during the match to show him where he should be.”

Looking ahead, Trevers said: “We are about to appoint a referee development officer for the county and one of their goals will be to establish a similar mentoring scheme for adults.

“There could then be links forged between the youth and senior academies, meaning that we can help referees from birth to the grave as they say.

“There is a career path to the top for those that show the most potential. Anyone who shows the basic knowledge and enthusiasm at 12, 13 or 14 could well be at the top come their late 20s.

“Already we are looking at putting some of our current youngsters in charge of Ipswich Town under-15 games, and if they ultimately show enough we could even put them forward for Premier league Under-16 matches.”

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