Referee holding ball

An Open Letter from Lincolnshire FA CEO, Nick Hanson

A message regarding the national shortage of referees

For all those involved in our grassroots game,

It will not have escaped your attention that there is currently a national shortage of referees. At a local level, whilst the situation isn’t as critical as other parts of the country, there are games taking place in Lincolnshire without a qualified match official.

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, due to the Covid restrictions placed upon us by the authorities, there has been almost no recruitment of referees for two seasons. As restrictions have been eased and lifted, recruitment and training of new referees has begun.

Secondly, and more concerningly we have seen several referees leaving the game which we believe can be attributed to a sharp increase in the incidents of poor behaviour towards match officials. In this month alone we have received numerous reports, including alleged assaults on referees, severe verbal intimidation, and even young referees being angrily confronted on the pitch by adults.

We have worked hard to highlight the need to protect our referee workforce including with the introduction of ‘Purple Shirts’, indicating when the match official is a child. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly evident there are occasions when even this proves no barrier to some individuals. This situation clearly is untenable for the long term good of our game. Match officials are fundamental to the game and we all have a collective responsibility to support, encourage and nurture this vital workforce.

Given the recent increase in poor behaviour towards match officials, the time is right to reinforce some important messages.

There is never a justifiable reason to abuse a match official
The match officials are no different to players and coaches in that they are not perfect and will make mistakes
You do not have the right to question the decision of a match official, their decision is final and must be respected
There is a clearly defined marking structure outlined in the standard code of rules to feedback on the referee’s performance, with ability to comment if required
It is the responsibility of each club to control their players, coaches, and spectators - NO EXCEPTIONS! Should you feel that your club has individuals that cannot meet this required standard, please ask them to stay away
The Lincolnshire FA has and will continue to devote all available resources to supporting and developing match officials. However, it is not possible to have a presence at each of the hundreds of matches taking place each week
Under-18 match officials must especially be protected; we all have a responsibility to safeguard children

This is quickly becoming a severe blight on our game and we will take the strongest action possible to tackle any future occurrences of such behaviour. 

I urge you to play your part and support our match official workforce.

Nick Hanson
Lincolnshire Football Association