A new initiative from the charity Ref Support is urging grassroots football fans to clap referees onto the pitch when football returns after lockdown.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his roadmap to get England out of lockdown on Monday, with amateur football teams able to compete again from March 29.
Ref Support has come up with the campaign, called ‘Give The Ref A Hand’, which they hope will end the hostility some grassroots match officials receive on a weekly basis.
The charity’s CEO, Martin Cassidy, spoke to Sky Sports News about the positive aims the initiative wants to bring about and urged everyone involved in grassroots football to think about the negative impact that threatening behaviour and language can have on amateur referees.
Cassidy also offered up recent examples of professional referees who have been targets for abuse.
“Now that the government has announced we can all get back to what we love – playing football – I just think that with all the negativity that has been around, with the Mike Dean incident and what happened with Darren Drysdale – we just want to be able to try and turn these negative events into refocusing events and turn it into an outcome that is positive,” said Cassidy.
“It’s called the ‘Give The Ref A Hand’ campaign. We want all clubs at grassroots level, or higher, to clap the referees out on our first weekend back and to just give them a hand to make football positive for everyone.
“Let’s come back [after lockdown] and make the game better together.
“We’ve talked about it for a while now and we have kept it under the radar. We’ve talked to a lot of clubs, a lot of leagues, and nobody has said no.
“The only thing anyone has said to is, ‘the FA hasn’t told us about it.’ This is our chance as a grassroots-focused charity to say, ‘we’re going to take ownership of this. The national governing body has got their own challenges.
“Let us take charge, let us do something to make the game better.”
Cassidy also highlighted how amateur referees can come face-to-face with those who have been abusive towards them in everyday scenarios.
“With some of the things that happen at grassroots football, referees bump into these people who have been threatening them and abusing them. They’re in the local supermarket, in the local pub, on the school run,” he added.
“Let’s just everyone take a little step back, recalibrate and see what we’re actually doing.
“Does it work, does it make our game better, what you are shouting at people?”
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