Launched two years ago, the Referee Armbands have made a significant impact for young and new match officials as they embark on their referee journey into grassroots football in Cumberland.
More than 100 armbands have been distributed across the county to new and U18 match officials over the past two seasons.
This weekend, English football unites to promote The FA’s Play Safe campaign, which focuses on the safeguarding role that everyone can play – coaches, match officials, players, parents/carers, spectators or volunteers – to keep children and young people safe, no matter what the football setting. The campaign is not just for those playing the game, but also for those in the role of the match official.
With 82 Referees officiating across the County under the age of 18, Cumberland FA are keen for the armbands to continue to act as a visual reminder to Coaches, Players and Spectators that the Match Official is under 18 and therefore a Child (Yellow) or Trainees learning to Refereeing (Red).
Alex, a Referee aged 16, told us about the armband: “Wearing the CFA Referee Armband as an U18 Referee is more than just a symbol to keep me safe. It’s a reminder of the trust placed in us young officials to officiate the game fairly and ensure everyone’s safety. Let’s continue to uphold the values of respect, and sportsmanship on the pitch, making each match a positive experience for all.”
The armbands were first piloted at the West Cumbria Youth League Under 8s Mini Soccer Festival as well as the Carlisle United Academy fixtures following consultation with young Referees, their Parents, Leagues and Coaches.
The armbands easily identify Under 18 and Trainee match officials, similar to ‘L’ plates that show fellow drivers that you’re learning to drive.
Ben Snowdon, Cumberland FA CEO, has given his thoughts on what the armband initiative brings to Cumberland Football:
“The armbands were devised as part of our commitment to Safeguarding. They act as a visual reminder to coaches, players and spectators that the individual wearing them are new to refereeing, have less experience and, like everyone else learning something new, will make mistakes.
"They support the Positive Football Environment for all participants of the grassroots game as we all have a responsibility to create a safe and positive environment that in turn leads to an enjoyable experience for all.
"Unfortunately, there are still a number of cases where referees have been subjected to insulting, offensive and abusive language and behaviour towards them. This has led to a number of officials understandably leaving the game. This includes a number of new and U18 referees who have successfully completed the FA Referees course only to leave the game before completing their training games, due to an incident or incidences of poor behaviour at their games.
"To further emphasise our commitment to tackling poor behaviour with Trainee and U18 referees, and in line with FA Disciplinary regulations, the fact that people are aware that they are a trainee or U18, will be considered as an aggravated factor by a disciplinary panel. This will mean that anyone who is found guilty of misconduct against a match official, who is wearing one of these armbands, may well have their sanction (fine, suspension) increased.”
This does not mean that clubs cannot comment on or raise genuine concerns around a Referee's performance. This is why all Leagues within the county offer a referee marking system which, if below 60 or marked “poor”, requests that the club provide a constructive report to support their judgement. This report is sent to the League and The CFA who will review and provide support (mentoring, discussion) and any further education or training where required.
Referee Development Officer, Scott Taylor, commented: “These have been a fantastic addition to the young (and trainee) referees' kit bag and reinforce our ongoing commitment to improving grassroots football behaviour and Safeguarding responsibilities. We are grateful to Franks Portlock for their sponsorship of these armbands and continuing support to the Cumberland FA.”
Warwick Wanderers U9 Coach, Alex, told us why he thinks the armbands are a positive step for grassroots football in Cumberland:
“I think from my perspective it's important to make sure that everyone involved in football has a safe, positive and enjoyable experience, and that includes our referees. Referees are a critical part of the game and without them we wouldn't be able to play.
"It's therefore vital that we have new referees coming through, so when I see referees with the red or yellow armbands it's important to remember that they are learning as well and to try and encourage that learning and development in the same way that we would our players, in a supportive positive environment.
"We also have referees that are U18, and it's a collective responsibility (players, coaches, parents and spectators) to ensure that we all remember they are still children themselves and should never be subject to any sort of abusive or inappropriate behaviour.
"The yellow armband in particular is a clear visual reminder to all that the referee is U18 and the aim should be to create a safe and positive environment to develop referees.”
Any Under 18 Match Officials who have not yet received their yellow armband, please contact RefSupport@CumberlandFA.com or telephone Scott Taylor on 01900 511800.
Visit our Get into Refereeing page to express your interest in upcoming Referee courses and find out more, including the pre-requisites.