Sports Gazette

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Premier League Managers Failing to Set Behavioural Standards, says Ref Support UK CEO

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It’s not a new problem, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Manager behaviour towards referee is disgraceful and is damaging the game across the country, from professional to amateur.

Jurgen Klopp, a regular offender, apologised after the 1-0 win over Man City for ‘losing it’ at assistant referee Gary Beswick and promised to attempt to contain his touchline behaviour.

Klopp was charged on Tuesday following his red card Sunday, and yet was on the touchline for the visit of West Ham only three days later. The FA will no doubt fail to take the appropriate action when a decision is made in due course.

“TV are the parents of abuse” 

 Martin Cassidy, the CEO of Ref Support UK, is tired of referee’s being “fair game” for abuse in football.

“I’m guilty myself”, Cassidy told the Sports Gazette. “I only started refereeing when I was injured”.

Cassidy believes that we all must take responsibility in tackling this issue, and the broadcasters must join the fight.

“TV is the parent of referee abuse. The officials in the game on Sunday are world class, they were the same officials that took charge of the match in the Euros in which Christian Eriksen died essentially and was brought back to the life on the pitch. This is a linesman who is going to the World Cup, he is one of the best in the world.

“On Match Of The Day a while ago they spent over one minute thirty seconds talking about referee decisions, and thirteen seconds on the player that missed two penalties in the same game”.

Ref Support UK wrote to the league managers association (LMA) on Wednesday morning asking for a condemnation of Klopp’s behaviour. The LMA have never condemned manager behaviour before.

The Imitation Game

Cassidy believes the grassroots game and professional game are so entwined that manager behaviour at Premier League level will have a trickle-down effect to all levels of the game.

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“It is inevitable that people will watch it and imitate it. It’s like Peter Crouch’s robot celebration, or Ronaldo’s celebration, or the Cruyff turn. People see these things and will want to copy them. This means their behaviour will be mimicked too by Adults on the touchline of grassroots football”.

An inevitable knock-on effect of such poor treatment of referees is the negative impact on their mental health. Cassidy told The Sports Gazette “already, mental health, especially at the pro level, is not good.”

This is the same at local level. Referees are scared to take charge of Sunday league matches as their safety cannot be guaranteed.

Ref Support UK received reports just this weekend from the mother of a teenage referee who was threatened in a supermarket car park, while another referee was hospitalised following an assault.

“I thought this sort of behaviour had ended after Neil Warnock left the Premier League” Cassidy said.

He was wrong, and since the situation has snowballed and is “out of hand already”.

Bodycams and Points Deductions

Ref Support UK has welcomed the FA’s decision to trial referees wearing body cameras in adult grassroots football to attempt to curb the escalation of abuse, but Cassidy and others want more to be done.

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“Points deductions are the second step to stopped referee abuse. Amateur clubs paying a £30 hush money fine is not enough. Referees take charge of games in their own communities. They will see these people off the field. It’s fine for Mark Clattenburg to referee Arsenal v Tottenham and go back home to Newcastle, but amateur refs can’t do this. They must feel safe in their own community”.

The FA have acknowledged that the abuse is a ‘significant problem’ in the game, whether they choose to take a proper stand on the issue remains to be seen.


  • Conor Keenan

    Conor, 24. Irish guy in London trying desperately to tone down my accent. Sports nerd. Bad golfer. Still reminiscing Ruud Van Nistelrooy in a Man Utd shirt. Specialising in football, golf, NFL and more. @conorjkeenan