Referee Reuben Simon has warned of the dangers facing the non-league game if there is not a swift improvement in the treatment of match officials.
By Chris Brookes
Simon played for Feltham FC in the Combined Counties League for a decade, beginning refereeing back in 2001 whilst out injured, and he has spoken of his concern that not enough is being done to raise the levels of respect towards referees.
“I spoke out ten years ago this week and still the same things are happening.” he said “The FA need to encourage a zero tolerance to referee abuse and push FIFA to impose a change in the law, like in rugby where the referee at the hint of dissent can move the ball up to 20 yards forwards, sideways or backwards to a place where the opposition prefer, a bit like a free ball in snooker.
“It would kill misconduct related to dissent overnight and might just help reverse the alarming decline in referee numbers.”
Initially refereeing on Sundays while continuing to play on a Saturday, Simon stepped away from playing at senior level in 2003. He worked his way up to becoming a Level 3 referee, officiating at Ryman and Conference level in 2010, and operated at that level until 2014.
Simon then resigned from the FA National list that year due to a considerable clash with travel and his personal business commitments. He continues to referee at a local level, in the Combined Counties and Middlesex County Leagues, as well as sitting on The Middlesex County Referees Committee, though he is clear to point out that his views are his own.
As a personal mentor to a number of up-and-coming younger referees, Simon says one of them recently walked away from the game, citing verbal abuse as one of the reasons why. He is calling upon action to be taken as soon as possible in order to prevent a shortfall of officials that could catastrophically affect the non-league game.
“The reason the previous trial in the early-2000s did not work is because it did not allow flexibility. The FA are losing more referees than they can replace and if it continues at the rate it’s going, do not be surprised in ten years’ time if there are not enough referees to service the non-league game.”