On Sunday, 21 young referees at all the Northumberland Football League central venues were withdrawn from their fixtures, forcing coaches and parents to referee matches themselves and get a taste of what it’s like to officiate.
The action, which was supported by Northumberland FA and Northumberland Football Leagues was as a direct result of the current levels of unacceptable abuse directed at match officials since the start of the season.
Northumberland FA Executive Officer, Andrew Rose-Cook, said: “We are all passionate about football – but passion cannot be used as an excuse for unacceptable behaviour. Our referees are committed to helping our players and teams have a positive and enjoyable match day experience. Abusing them is simply not acceptable. We cannot and will not allow this to continue. This weekend is the first step in a season long campaign to encourage everyone in grassroots football to be ‘100% positive.’”
Northumberland Football Leagues’ General Manager, Ian Coates, added: "I would urge every one of our parents and coaches to take a look at their own behaviour. Please support and encourage our referees – without them there would be no football. Let’s all move forward together in a positive manner.”
Steve Swinyard, NFA Board member and Safeguarding Champion, said: “We are absolutely committed to ensuring the grassroots game is enjoyable, safe and fun for everyone. We’re at a stage now where unfortunately, strong action needs to be taken to make the point that this type of behaviour is unacceptable."