Under-18 referees wear green armbands after shocking levels of pitchside abuse revealed

Suffolk FA has formed a new partnership with The Offside Trust to help end abuse against young refer

Suffolk FA has formed a new partnership with The Offside Trust to help end abuse against young referees Picture: SUFFOLK FA - Credit: SUFFOLK FA

Young referees in Suffolk are wearing green armbands to show the red card to abuse - after shocking statistics revealed nearly four out of five county youth officials experienced bad behaviour.

As part of the partnership with The Offside Trust, all referees under the age of 18 in Suffolk will now wear a green armband, designed to show them that they are subject to the FA’s safeguarding legislation.

It comes after a survey of under-18 referees and parents in Suffolk in January found that a shocking 79.2% of match officials had experienced poor behaviour directed towards them.

One referee, who has not been named, called for the “very few” adult coaching staff and parents to be “less aggressive” towards young referees for their age or inexperience.

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Ian Atkins, Suffolk FA’s referee development officer, said it is “not okay” to show abuse towards any referee – especially younger ones in the early stage of their development.

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Mr Atkins said: “We are delighted to be launching this initiative in partnership with The Offside Trust.

“While the majority of those involved within the game are respectful of match officials, there exists a small minority who do not always behave in an appropriate way.

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“In the last three seasons as part of their initial training, nine out of ten referees in Suffolk have received mentoring support in their early fixtures.

“This is in addition to the development opportunities which are currently seeing officials progress from youth in to open age football.

“It is not okay for any participant to show abuse towards any referee – irrespective of their age within the game – however we hope that by raising the awareness of our U18 referees by this green armband initiative, that those who are younger and continuing to develop can do so in a positive environment.”

The Offside Trust was set up following revelations of child sexual abuse in the footballing world in 2016, with survivors of abuse in the professional game helping to form the charity.

Former Norwich City reserve player Alan Arber, who opened up about his experience of sexual abuse last year, is now an ambassador for the charity.

Mr Arber said: “We are really pleased to be working with Suffolk FA and are looking at various initiatives to continue to raise awareness and safeguard young children in sport.”

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