I’ve been involved in refereeing both as a middleman and in the office for more years than I care to remember.
I’ve been through the mill as far as abuse, threats and insults are concerned.
I’ve been assaulted and threatened with life-changing injuries and even assassination. I can handle most of that.
But the article I read the other day which really disgusted me was the vulgar and appallingly derogatory threats made to a female referee in Australia.
This brave woman told an Aussie journalist that she “faced rape threats, death threats and verbal abuse”.
She said after finishing her day refereeing football games she had been stalked and harassed on social media for the decisions she made.
Delfina Dimoski said she got constant abuse throughout her 11 years as a match official but in recent seasons violent threats had left her scared to do her job and made her consider quitting the game altogether.
“Sadly for me I was targeted based on my gender and my ethnicity, with some vulgar insults,” she said. Statements included “get back in the kitchen” and “women don’t belong in men’s football”.
She said the abuse did not stay on the pitch or come solely from players. She reported being screamed at by coaching staff and supporters. She said she had been followed and threatened “not only in person, but on social media”.
The above is nothing new. Abuse of match officials goes on all the time and will continue as long as the powers that be sit on their collective backsides and do nothing.
There is a great saying by an Irish philosopher called Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) that: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
How true is that?
There is a feeling among some in our communities who believe that the referee and his assistants are there to be abused, to be spat at and, in some perverse way, made to be the laughing stock or the whipping boy.
That attitude and mind-set has to change, but it will change only when football administrators take this issue more seriously.
The sport is haemorrhaging good, honest people with the whistle and the flag.
They are leaving in their droves and are not being replaced.
You know that old saying – no referee, no match. That message needs to be driven home to the teams and clubs that they must control their members and supporters or they will not have anyone to officiate their games.
I have long campaigned for an independent refereeing body which would recruit, train, mentor and assess referees and assistant referees. It would be responsible for all matters refereeing, including disciplinary measures if and when required.
There is an argument that this is self-regulatory. Perhaps it is, but at the moment the referees fall under the control of the national body in each country and, given what you’ve read so far and what’s been happening in other games unreported, they are failing miserably.
If the truth be known, refereeing is an evil necessity and, to be honest, from what I’ve experienced in my career that is definitely the case.
This is directed at all football associations around the world – take care of your match officials or you might soon not have any.
Time is running out and referees and their assistants, particularly at lower-level league games, are fed up with the abuse and some are talking with their feet and leaving.
Recognise the danger and do something about it now – before it’s too late.
Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol