THE PRESIDENT of Huddersfield Football Association has made a desperate plea for people to take up the whistle in a bid to stop the town’s refereeing crisis.
The number of qualified officials overseeing games reached an all-time low last season with between 14 and 19 on average covering more than 60 fixtures played each weekend.
Frank Beaumont, 75, of Holmfirth, president of the local FA since 1999, said if the number of referees continued to fall in 2008-09 it would be unthinkable.
Mr Beaumont, who appealed for people to think about training to become an official ahead of the new season, added: “I just can’t contemplate the situation getting any worse. It would be a disaster. We have to stop it now.”
Figures from the association which is responsible for all local football including the District and Works leagues, showed more than 500 games took place without a fully-trained referee last season.
Players directing verbal abuse at officials and a general lack of respect shown to them have been blamed as the main reasons behind the decline in numbers.
The problem has become so bad the Examiner has launched a ‘Save the Ref’ campaign which will run throughout the 2008-09 season to help stop the crisis.
Mr Beaumont said: “We desperately need to recruit and train more referees. This could be young lads and ex-players – male and female.
“I am, however, hopeful the problem can be stopped.
“The Huddersfield Examiner campaign should be a good help – it will be the mouthpiece for what we want to achieve. And we shall also be running other initiatives.”
Mr Beaumont said the leagues in the town need to make determined efforts to support referees and make officiating games an enjoyable experience.
He added: “It is also vital for players, managers and other coaching staff to respect the men in charge – a notion which has been publicised recently in the national football respect campaign.”
Huddersfield’s football leagues have struggled for more than 30 years with the recruitment and retention of referees.
Mr Beaumont read out an extract from an annual meeting held during the 1971-72 season.
It said: “The referees’ situation has been similar to last season with the lower divisions feeling the brunt of the shortage.
“I can only reiterate the call I have made so many times in the past: If there are any players or officials interested in taking up the whistle, the local FA would be more than happy to hear from them.”
Mr Beaumont explained: “It is an issue we have been plagued with for a long, long time.
“Putting a stop to the falling numbers is the Huddersfield FAs’ main priority this season.
“We have tried all kinds of measures but the issue keeps getting worse and at times we have felt like we are running out of steam.”
Mr Beaumont said people needed to realise if the problem continued and spreads to other areas, it could have a detrimental affect on the future of the sport.
And he believed respect had to be shown at the top level of football – in the Premier League and Coca-Cola divisions.
“This means whenever people put their televisions on to watch a match, they can see that respect is shown,” he explained.
“And, hopefully this will then filter down the various tiers of the game and be implemented at a grass roots stage.
“At the moment, unfortunately, this respect is not really shown in top-flight football and that doesn’t help.”
Mr Beaumont also feels club managers had a vital role to play.
“If his player is going and harassing an official all the time, the coach should be penalised in the form of amassing disciplinary points.
“For example, they could be given two points if one of his men gains a yellow card and three for a red.
“Then, if the manager collects around 15 points in a season, his managerial role should be taken away from him. The referees’ decision should always be final.”
Anyone wanting information on how to become a referee should contact the Referees Association on 01484 307266.