The Football Association is to consider equipping grassroots football referees with cameras in a bid to reduce abuse directed towards them.
The bold initiative is being considered by FA officials as part of re-launched Respect programme, following meetings with referee Ryan Hampson, who led a strike of over 2,000 grassroots officials this month.
18-year-old Hampson launched his strike campaign on Facebook after incidents of being spat on, pushed and headbutted by adults involved in grassroots football in recent months.
Having brought the campaign to the attention of the national media, Hampson claims to have been contacted by more than 2,000 grassroots referees and officials, who withdrew their services on the weekend of 4-5 March.
The Manchester official has subsequently held two meetings with FA representatives, including the newly-appointed Respect manager, Nathan French, to discuss his concerns and proposals, including the possible use of body-cams for referees, to act as a deterrent to any would-be abusive player or manager.
“I’m very pleased to say the meeting was absolutely fantastic,” said Hampson in a Periscope post shortly after the latest meeting last Friday.
“Nathan French, the FA Respect officer, has took on board my requests. In terms of the new FA Respect programme that’s going to be launched, I feel this could really work this time. They’ve took on board the comments that I’ve made.
“In terms of body-cams, they’ve sent that off to their legal department to have a look at and see if it fits in with the Data Protection Act. That’s something we’re just going to have to wait and see.”
Hampson proposed the use of referee body-cams – an idea already trialled by one grassroots coach – having suffered abuse on the pitch himself and, as he explained to Granada Reports, he hopes they could act as a deterrent to any player that might consider assaulting or abusing an official.
“Referees don’t feel protected… It’s something to keep us safe… so when we go to the appeal hearings, when we’re giving our version of events, we’ve got that evidence and players bang to rights.
“It’s just to show players that we’ve had enough. We’ve had enough of the abuse and the assaults. You wouldn’t get it on the streets, so why do you think it’s acceptable on the pitch?”
Teamer understands that both meetings between Hampson and the FA were positive and that the governing body look forward to maintaining dialogue with the young referee moving forwards, with further announcements expected on the Respect programme in the coming months.
After working hard on the campaign, Hampson himself is happy with the progress he has made for grassroots referees, and is optimistic about the direction the FA’s new programme will take.
“I’m really proud of how far this campaign has come. I’m proud of how many referees have stuck together. We all want what’s best for grassroots referees. There has been a lot of dialogue today about supporting referees more.
“The next three months are massive for the FA in terms of this Respect programme that will be reinvigorated. I’m looking forward to myself, Ref Support UK and the FA working together. We’ll all singing from the same hymn sheet now, we all want to do what’s best for grassroots referees and grassroots football.”
What do you think of the idea of refs wearing body-cams in grassroots football? Do you think it would help improve behaviour in the game? Perhaps you are concerned over costs? Have your say in the comments section below.