Teens lead the way as North Coast Football overcomes referee crisis

From left, Sophie Rhoades, Mirrin Hoober and Philip Payne.

NORTH Coast Football (NCF) has averted a referee crisis and it’s the teenagers who have stepped up and come to the rescue.

Forty-five new referees completed their training in 2023 and a whopping 75 percent of the new referees were under the age of 18.

NCF referee coordinator David Horseman explained how the looming crisis was averted.

“We had 61 referees in 2022 but lost many of them to university, getting other jobs, moving out of the area or not wanting to put up with abuse from the sideline and on the field.

“We had only 43 referees returning after 2022 and we needed closer to one hundred, so there was obviously a huge gap to fill,” he said.

Horseman explained that recruiting on a large scale required a fresh approach.

“A new system was implemented last year where referees in their first year would wear a green shirt, the purpose of this is to let people know they are still learning. This has been carried on again successfully this year.

“All referees make mistakes, we are all human, but the green shirt reflects the experience of the referee and the requirement for understanding, we had to reinforce that no referee can mean no game.

“Whilst poor behaviour from the sidelines has not been eradicated it is something we have cracked down on and implemented stronger penalties for offenders.

“We have also made it easier for young referees to become accredited with regular courses and online learning which has helped,” Horseman said.

“We have 88 registered referees but it is still challenging to cover games every week due to numbers, experience and availability of referees.

“Most of the young ones play football themselves, so are only available around their games at the grounds they are playing at,” Horseman said.

Explaining the financial benefits of refereeing has been a key motivator.

“Referees get paid to officiate matches and the financial rewards increase with experience which means there is a pathway.

“Refereeing is an alternative to a part-time job and it’s also good exercise.

“Most of our referees play football or are football supporters so doing a job you enjoy is a big drawcard,” said Horseman.

“Having said that, it also creates a challenge, juggling playing and refereeing – we use an online system where referees make themselves available and are allocated games or they can choose which matches they want to officiate which certainly helps,” he said.

“As more new referees join the ranks we try to share the experience so other potential new referees might consider the job.

“Last weekend we had 16 new referees complete the one-day training course so we will see them in green shirts in the near future.”

With female football on the rise, the growth in female referees has been significant.

“Of the 45 new referees, 42 percent are female, which is something we are very proud of.

“Retention has improved this year, only one new referee has stopped as they have moved away, a few are not very active but all have refereed at some point this year,” he said.

By David Wigley

Leave a Reply