Referee Webb: Respect campaign 'making a difference'

Referee Howard Webb believes that the Respect campaign that was introduced by the English FA last August has made a significant difference to the game in England.

The programme has not only seen an improvement in behaviour towards referees in the professional game, but also in the crucial area of grassroots football and Webb believes that it can only be for the good of the game in the future.

“I think that the Respect programme was fully justified and brought in at the right time,” revealed the South Yorkshire based official.

“It was needed because I know we were in the position whereby something like 7,000 referees were walking away from the game each year and that means that something had to be wrong.

“Therefore, The FA were quite right in doing something about it and making an effort to improve behaviour in the game. From my experience with the games that I’ve been involved in, player behaviour has been markedly better.

“Not everyone will agree with that, but that’s just a honestly held belief that I have from my games when, by and large, the behaviour of players towards referees has been better. We haven’t seen the surrounding of the match officials in the same way that we have in years gone by and the common open dissent doesn’t seem to be there.

“Of course there are some cases and people will be able to point the finger at certain individuals who still behave in that way, but on the whole the interaction with the players I have had has been good and they seem to be aware of the importance of looking after the image of the game and embracing the Respect programme.”

It isn’t just working at the top end of the sport either, as Webb himself has seen the positive effect that it has had upon the grassroots level.

Having helped with local referee development in South Yorkshire and experienced working his way up through the different levels of the game, Webb is positive on the future for officials across the country.

“The County FAs are all rolling out the Respect campaign to everybody locally and the referees at grassroots levels are aware of the programme and I think it’s really important,” he added.

“There are other things like safety levels for match officials too. It’s okay for me going to Old Trafford, Anfield or the Emirates Stadium because my safety is looked after by other people, but when you go out there as a newly qualified, 18-year-old referee to a park pitch and an open-aged game, you’re on your own.

“You need to be confident that you’ll be treated in the correct way by those teams, so it’s crucially important that these messages are received at the grassroots level of the game.

“I’d like to make the point that whilst I’ve been involved in refereeing over 19 years, I’ve had vast amounts of enjoyment without any problems nearly all of the time and I know that’s true for most people.

“Most games pass without incident and the players, coaches, parents or whoever are respectful and behave in a correct and proper manner and enjoy their part in the game.”

If you have any questions related to refereeing, please do not hesitate to contact The FA by emailing [email protected] or by calling 020 7745 4651.


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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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1 Comment

  1. Ron Martin on July 7, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    The push by grassroot football leagues for clubs to respect referees can only be good for football but surely there are three problem areas we must understand.

    FIRST of all, lets talk about the parents and referees of our young players in the 7 to 18 age groups. We surely must understand that they are vunerable both to the effects of referees decisions and comments by parents/spectators alike.

    SECONDLY, at the age of 18+ suddenly these players become adults and whatever they copy from what they have seen on tv or watched at grassroots level, their ‘offences’ will be punished by some referees followed automatically by fines/bans. Disrepect to referees or their opponents must be punished more severely than at present.

    LASTLY, respect is a two edged sword. When players are asked to respect referees, sureley logic says that referees must first earn the respect of players.

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