Our new social media campaign, #ThankTheRef, is encouraging more grassroots football participants to positively comment on, and show gratitude to, their referee after each game, with motivational words of support already being shared.
#ThankTheRef was launched in December to highlight the value of referees and refereeing. The County FA are encouraging all members of the community to tweet @EssexCountyFA after their next match, including the hashtag, to highlight why they appreciated the referee (or assistant referees) on the day, or why they feel they officiated the game professionally.
Following the launch just before Christmas, Glenn Michaels (pictured, below), from Westcliff-on-Sea, was one of the first referees to be thanked, by Earls Hall United Reserves after their Southend & Basildon Sunday League encounter with Prittlewell Reserves. The match took place on Sunday 19th December at Bournes Green Park in Southend-on-Sea.
It was particularly enjoyable for Glenn, who says it makes a real a difference to his officiating when he feels he has the backing of the players: “When both teams respect your decisions and explanations, even if they don’t like them, then your focus and concentration lie solely on the game. You’re, therefore, likely to get more things right than wrong.”
“I remember how happy everyone was to be there, even though the weather was freezing fog. This particular weekend it seemed every match was cancelled, so it made the want and need for football that morning really significant. The usual “Alright, ref?” greeting was said by many - in local football your face soon becomes familiar. Better than murmurs of, “Oh, not this ref again!”
Referees in grassroots football invest their time and energy positively into the game as an outlet for their passion. Fixtures cannot be played without a referee, which makes them amongst the most important people on the pitch. Holding every whistle or flag is a human being who deserves to be fully respected so they can do their best to help the game flow.
Unfortunately, misconduct towards referees does occasionally take place, which is then governed by a robust and thorough discipline process. In addition, if the Essex County FA’s Referees Department ever learn of any challenges faced by referees during a grassroots game, an attempt is always made to contact the match official to see if any support can be offered.
#ThankTheRef was developed in dialogue with referees and the Essex Referees Association, and aims to encourage the whole football community to think twice about making referees’ lives difficult in the first place. Match officials are constantly learning, and many attend workshops to try and improve, just like players do at training. Everyone in football should work with each other.
Glenn recalls: “Earls Hall scored an absolute ‘worldy’ and the whole team celebrated wildly, but the Prittlewell sub doing the line had raised the flag for offside. He confirmed exactly what he’d seen and it was the correct call. As disappointed as the Earls Hall lads were, they just accepted it and got on with the game. That meant a lot.”
“Referees love the game, too, we don’t just turn up and go home, we think about it all week in the build-up to a match, and for days after. Decisions we made, things we did well, things we can improve on. We are often appointed to a match a month in advance and we take it seriously. It matters to us, so a ‘thank you’ is always welcome.”
This positivity also helps Glenn to consider where he wants refereeing to take him, and which promotion and self-development ambitions he has coming-up: “Refereeing has given me lots already, opening a world of new friendships and contacts. It’s character-building and its shown me you’re never too old to learn. I qualified as a referee for the 2018/19 season.”
“Since then, I’ve achieved two consecutive promotions to Senior County Level 5 Referee. I’m proud, and glad, to have achieved this aim by the age of 40. For now, I plan to continue learning and developing my game but, more importantly, just enjoying it. I back #ThankTheRef because anything positive towards refereeing can only be a good thing.”
How can you get involved? Tweet @EssexCountyFA after your next match, including the #ThankTheRef hashtag, to tell us why you appreciated a referee (or assistant referees) on the day. Maybe include an image and video clip (if the referee is happy with this). You can also E-Mail text, images, audio and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.