Under 18s Referee Armbands

Yellow Armband Initiative Supports Young Essex Referees

Backing for Officials in Blackwater and Chelmsford Leagues

Young referees aged under 18 in the Blackwater & Dengie and Chelmsford Youth Leagues are wearing yellow armbands during matches for the 2019/20 season as part of an Essex County FA pilot aiming to have a positive effect on levels of dissent from the touchlines.

At fixtures on these leagues every Sunday, these officials will don the bright armbands to signify their age and that they’re still in the early stages of their development. In conjunction with the Respect Campaign’s #WeOnlyDoPositive initiative, the project supports young referees and reminds all involved in the game that they are learning and, like all humans, will make mistakes.

This pilot is analysing aspects linked to the impact of the armband’s presence. Specific metrics will then be collated to gain insight and shape the future of the programme. “It’s important to protect our young referees as they make up one third of the total within Essex,” explained Referee Development Officer, Lukas Wood. “They officiate the majority of youth football.”

“The aim is to highlight to spectators that these referees are still children and they’re learning and developing, similar to the players on the pitch. Without them, many youth games may go uncovered, meaning player development could also be impacted. We want to encourage referees to continue doing what they enjoy as they could potentially be future Football League officials.”

Archie Waine is one of the referees taking part in the pilot, and he believes it’s already having an impact: “It’s a good concept, so coaches do understand that referees who are under 18 are learning and it might only be their first or second year, so they need the chance to develop in an environment where they can progress. I think it’s got the potential to develop.”

Helen Hever, County FA Designated Safeguarding Officer, added: “This is a new, exciting initiative. We support young referees in various ways, including a mentoring scheme which is an ideal method for young aspiring referees to have on-the-day support at the early stages of their careers.”

“Football recognises that the sport is full of passion. However, we are aware that, sometimes, spectators cross the line from encouraging players and, for some, they become aggressive and threatening. It is key that, as adults, we acknowledge that we role models to young people.”

“If adults feel that they are becoming agitated at a youth game, they take the appropriate measures. For example, they could move away from the side of the pitch. Young players seeing adults questioning officials will likely feel they can then do this.”

“By improving behaviour, and making the environment a positive one, both players and young referees will have the ability to develop their careers, so football will have more young people enjoying the game they love.”

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Terry Cooper (Referees Officer, Chelmsford Youth League)

“As soon as our League Secretary mentioned this, I thought it was a positive move by the County FA. We’ve tried to contact as many under-18 referees and sell this pilot to them so we can be successful in recruiting as many new referees for the current season and beyond.”

“The parents of these referees feel this will help their child in getting confidence whilst learning the rules of the game. I personally believe this pilot will be a success and, given the feedback so far from parents, coaches and referees, it has all been positive. I hope it will continue to ensure young referees continue to enrol on the courses and join leagues like our own.”

Malcolm Shaw (Chairman, Blackwater & Dengie Youth League)

“We agreed we should take part as it was felt that our league had a good number of under-18 referees, with 50 currently on our list. Young referees are the future of our game and, as such, should be given every encouragement.”

“It is hoped that, when club officials and spectators see the armband, they will be more willing to let the referee get on with the game and not get on his or her back. We’ve received some positive feedback so far, and it is hoped that it could be of a great benefit to the game in general so it’s adopted throughout the country.”