MP calls for better protection for referees

A Member of Parliament has called for more protection for referees in grassroots football following a series of attacks on officials in his local Sunday League.

Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones spoke out in the House of Commons this month after two serious assaults prompted referees in the Nuneaton Sunday League to go on strike earlier this season.

One of the attacks, which took place in Bedworth in September, has seen a player banned for five years by the FA for punching a referee in the face.

The Conservative MP, a former Sunday league player himself, believes that referees often fail to receive “the full protection of the law” when assaults take place on the field of play and has vowed to raise the issue with Home Secretary Teresa May.

“In recent months two referees officiating the Nuneaton and District Sunday League have been badly assaulted by players,” said Jones.

“Because those incidents take place on the pitch, the authorities do not apply the same gravity to them as they would if they happened elsewhere, so I decided to raise this issue in Parliament to ask what more the Government do to protect referees in the amateur game.

“Verbal abuse and physical attacks on referees at any level of the game is completely unacceptable, so I will be raising the issue further with the Home Secretary to see if anything can be done to give referees the full protection of the law when incidents happen on the football pitch.”

The Football Association launched the Respect Programme in 2008 to tackle abusive and unacceptable behaviour towards referees. 850 leagues and 52,000 teams have since signed up to the programme.

The FA has recruited some famous names to help promote Respect – including actor Ray Winstone, World Cup referee Howard Webb and then-England manager Fabio Capello – but some argue that its success at grassroots level has been undermined by an inability to stamp out harassment of officials in the professional game.

According to Jones, Sports Minister Helen Grant has “acknowledged that the Football Association and Sport England have invested £60m to help raise standards” and given her “support for the full protection of the law for officials wherever attacks take place to ensure that community football is safe and enjoyable.”

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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. Kenneth Allen on February 27, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Why do Premiership referees not punish players who abuse them, or their Linesmen, verbally, right in front of their face, when everyone watching tv can lip read what they have said? I always warn players about swearing before I referee a game, so if they swear at me during the game, I take action. Premiership referees ignore too many rules, e.g. 6 second rule for goalkeepers, and foul throws.

  2. Simon Kebble on February 27, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    As others have said – why do referee’s of the professional divisions allow players to get away with dissent and verbal abuse that grass root referees caution and send off – if we don’t adhere to the laws of the game our County FA can punish the referee. Respect is vital in grass root games but players regularly see their heroes flaunt the laws.

  3. Mark on March 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    It’s like the shirt pulling in the penalty area that goes on at corners … It’s down to the Assessors…if it happens and the referee does nothing about it and the Assessor doesn’t report that he/she (the referee) took no action on the match assessment then the referee will maintain his/her standard marks. In lower leagues if a referee misses a yellow or red card for whatever reason then the standard mark is reduced meaning he/she gets a lower mark. Its pretty obvious that they are terrified of sending off or cautioning a multi million pound player .. involved in the entertainment business … which is what the PL is… unfortunately its a multi tier game with us grass roots referees having to deal with behaviour that goes unpunished at the top tier

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