AT the start of the 2010-11 local football season, the Examiner led the Save the Ref campaign.
At that time, the number of referees was in a dramatic decline to such effect that both on a Saturday and Sunday, only a third of local matches were being refereed by neutral officials.
The Examiner sought support, and received assistance, from both the Huddersfield FA and the Huddersfield Referees Association which led to members of both groups submitting articles for publication.
Mid-season, the RA decided to introduce a Report Card on which current referees where able to make comments about their experiences.
It was hoped that, by using these measurements, the problems that had caused referees to resign and prevented others starting could be identified and hopefully remedied.
The following year, the Huddersfield FA decided to adopt the National FA Respect Programme (Part1). The central platform was the Referees Report Card which now allowed referees to give marks as well as comments.
Clubs were made aware that their behaviour was now under scrutiny and it was hoped that this would have a beneficial effect.
These marks were not only awarded on the basis of respect towards the referees, but separate marks were also being collected on such items as facilities and the referee-captain liaison.
This season, the Huddersfield FA are now offering a Respect Trophy which is based on the marks that referees give to clubs but purely based on the “Respect” given to them.
If Saturday November 10, 2012, is used as an example, then all parties should be proud of their achievements – with particular mention to Frank Beaumont from the FA and Dave Bolger from the RA.
Last Saturday, there were 52 fixtures and 43 were staffed by neutral referees.
It must be presumed their efforts are now creating an atmosphere in which referees feel comfortable, and this can also be illustrated by the fact that referees from other areas, who find themselves with open dates, contact the Huddersfield FA Appointments Secretary for any spare fixture.
Who is line for the new trophy?
At this early stage it is difficult to assess because with some clubs, having only a few marks, their average may still vary significantly.
The teams at the top from the District League are Linthwaite, AFC Waterloo, Paddock and Lokomotiv Cowcliffe.
The top teams from the Works League are Phoenix Knights and Yetton Cask, while Clifton and Field Head are the leaders from the Get Smart Group Kirklees Sunday League.
However, there are some interesting results being thrown up by these marks.
Fifty two of the 82 clubs average over eight out of 10 and only 14 clubs have an average below seven.
There’s still room for improvement but, overall, all parties involved in local football must take pride in the manner in which the decline has been rectified – and credit must be given to the Examiner whose “Save The Ref” was the origin.