Two-thirds of young football referees say they experience verbal abuse on a regular basis, according to a new survey.
Lancashire referees have been filmed as part of a new survey into the Football Association’s Respect programme.
More than 2,000 referees – the majority at grassroots level – responded to questions about the abuse they receive and how well the Respect programme is working.
It was broadcast by Radio 5 Live and featured interviews with referees in Lancashire and Lancashire FA’s Referees’ Department to see how they were addressing the issue.
Young Level 5 referees Zac Parris and George Allison from Leyland gave honest views on their experiences – which included some examples of confrontational and aggressive behaviour by players and coaches.
Both however stated that they were undeterred in their enjoyment of the game – and they will both would continue in their pursuit of refereeing at the top level.
Lancashire FA’s referee development manager Steve Stewart said: “We want to fully support and develop our refereeing workforce – and there are many moving parts to consider in that journey.
“In the last three-and-a-half seasons – from the start of the 2012 / 13 season - we have quite deliberately focused on dissent and verbal abuse as key issues in improving the image of the game – as well as encouraging participation levels of both players AND match officials.
“In 2012 /13 some 26 per cent of all cards issued were for dissent and verbal abuse. This has declined by almost exactly 1.5 per cent each season since then – and currently we are running at 20.5 per cent of yellow and red cards issued are for this type of indiscipline.
“The reasons for this improvement are a combination of things. Without doubt, through our FA Referee Courses, we are qualifying better prepared referees whose game-management skills are better than ever.
“The support we get from local referee societies and groups is excellent – as is the quality of our mentors, referee coaches and assessors – and our referee development strategies.
“Combine this with the profile the Respect programme has brought and we are moving in the right direction.
“Every referee carrying out their duties both on and off the field of play is critical to these improvements.
“For example, any referee who cautions or sends off a player – and doesn’t send it in to us – is cheating the referee who comes along next week.”
Dr Jamie Cleland from the University of Loughborough, one of the academics involved in the research, said: “These findings are quite concerning for the FA nationally, because without referees the grassroots game would not exist.
“Twenty-two per cent experience verbal abuse at every match, 38 per cent said every couple of games, and 19 per cent said they had been the victim of physical abuse at some time.”