Why do players think they can abuse the ref?

Andy Wilkinson books a player in a Driffield League game earlier this season
Andy Wilkinson books a player in a Driffield League game earlier this season

Saturday League clubs in Scarborough will be forced to take up the whistle if a referee can’t be found for games.

If a referee can’t be found in future, clubs must take charge of the games themselves or they’ll be charged with failure to fulfil a fixture.

There are no plans to do the same in Bridlington, but Driffield League referee Andy Wilkinson explains about the difficulties of being the man in the middle.

The shortage of referees is widespread, certainly through the lower leagues.

Sending referees 40 miles to referee a game has financial and time implications and many referees are put off by this.

The league boundaries and the allocation of referees, mean that often the same referee will see the same team time and time again in a season. It’s not good for the game.

What we have missed, is why there are so few referees available.

Are they just retiring and not being replaced?

Are the young ones just been fast-tracked and local leagues miss out? Are the current referees just being put off by the level of abuse they receive.

Players seem to think that as they pay their subs, they have carte blanche to abuse the referees and the opponents.

Let me say this, I had a shocker last week in the middle. My ‘team’ was me. Not 10 others and a bench to pick me up and pull me through.

My ‘opposition’ - approximately 60 adults all willing to have a go at me for a decision correct in law, totally down to the indiscipline of the players.

If I was to get assessed, my fitness was adequate, my positioning good, but as the game went on, my player management suffered because I was reluctant to follow the Christmas spirit by dishing out the cards.

My performance has impacted my working week, my family life, my pre-match routine for this week - if I can bring myself to referee at all.

‘You’ve ruined the game’, “it’s your fault this!’, ‘are you joking?’ - just some of the ‘banter’ that I put up with for my expenses - which are considerably less than my hourly wage.

Unfortunately, I have also found that as players go higher up in the leagues, the abuse is more direct and the verbal attacks more frequent, even if a game is going their way.

Currently teams opt not to play games if they have to referee it, simply because they either can’t, won’t or can’t be impartial like 99% of the referees out there.

Refereeing is a fantastic pastime.

Great for personal development, man-management, problem-solving and communication.

All what employers look for in an employee.

On any other square foot of the borough, aggression would be illegal, language would bring a police caution. Why do footballers have the exception?

Does it happen in rugby? Sometimes, but the punishments are weeks out, not a few quid.

Referees are not robots, an inch one side and its a penalty, the other, a free kick in the other direction.

The tolerance towards abuse is often down to the individual and in many cases, tiredness and how the match is going. A player is tired, they can take a time out, a referee - not. Injured - most of the time we try to carry on to do our service.

Have a think about referees. Welcome them, encourage them, but where you can - thank them.