At our monthly meeting held the day before bonfire night our special guests for the evening, Mark and Lee provided an explosive session for the 50+ members in attendance. Introduced by Jack Noble, the Secretary to the LRA and National Board member, firstly Lee, (Head of Welfare and Representation for the National RA), followed by Mark, (Head of Discipline at the FA, Wembley), not only provided terrific and informative information to the attendees but did so in a highly interactive manner which went down well with all present, which included a mix of male and female Referees, youth members, parents and guests, notably Roy Waterfield the CEO of the Shropshire FA, Ian Preece (RDO) and other members of FA staff. We also welcomed representatives from local Leagues across the County.
Jack provided a brief background to the footballing profile across the County highlighting the steps taken in recent times to overcome and reverse a decline in grassroots football and its impact upon Refereeing. These largely comprised a focus on youth in terms of both recruitment, development and retention, a programme of Continuous Professional Development events to benefit and interest Referees of all ages and levels across the County, utilising and publicising the range of benefits, information and expertise available from the NRA, and establishment of a much closer relationship with the County FA.
Lee highlighted the work being done to provide greater protection and support to Referees. He recounted several incidents providing images of events that had taken place, explaining how the RA had engaged and closely supported victims with the appropriate professional expertise being brought to bear. There was lively discussion arising out of “FA charges”, notably Safeguarding, social media comments, threatening and swearing at managers/players/spectators, officiating non-affiliated competitions, using sexist and racist comments in games or through official correspondence. He made the meeting aware of the considerable efforts that were being made to ensure positive dialogue such as with government ministers, MP’s and FA governance bodies. He went on to enlighten the meeting about links/alliances formed with various charities, most recently MIND as part of the range of help and support available, should it be helpful to members.
Lee then handed over to Mark who proceeded to poll the gathering to ascertain major concerns and areas of prime interest to members. One such was general dissatisfaction of how disciplinary hearings were conducted, particularly what seemed to some to be “bias /unfairness” in the outcomes in cases returning a “not founded” decision. Members also pointed to a lack of transparency in respect of progress and outcomes in respect of disciplinary cases. There were also comments concerning a paucity of mentoring and how this was a contributory factor to the early loss of younger Refs. Mark acknowledged these and other issues and provided a very positive, responsive and entertaining session, which included a series of actions currently underway from the FA.
The meeting concluded with an expression of sincere thanks to our guests, both of whom had travelled considerable distances and given much time to deliver excellent and relevant presentations to our members and guests.