Referee wearing a yellow Youth Referee armband

An Open Letter From The Parent of a Young Referee

Do you remember your first ever job as a teenager? Perhaps you had a paper round, worked in a shop or restaurant or in an office. Do you remember how you felt when you started?

Imagine you’ve just started a new job, you’re nervous but determined to do well.  It’s really busy with lots of people around and then someone shouts at you across the office in front of everyone: “Oi, this work you’ve done is rubbish”, and someone else shouts “it’s an absolute joke!”, “I could do better myself!”. Can you imagine grown adults shouting abuse like that in the workplace? And yet it happens to referees week-in, week-out from the sidelines of football pitches. And even worse, some of these referees are 14 or 15 years old, newly-qualified, just starting out on their referee journeys.

I’ve been a football parent for many years and in all that time I’ve never really given much thought to what it’s like to be a referee until my 14-year old son qualified as one a few weeks ago. By his 3rd match, he’d already experienced verbal abuse from a parent (the linesman who should have been there to support him!).  While we knew that he would face these challenges, it’s not until you see your child on the pitch - by themselves (you’ve got no team mates when you’re the ref), nervous as they’re new to the job, with adults shouting that they’ve made the wrong decision – that you realise the impact that verbal abuse can have on young refs.

“Oh c’mon on ref!”

“Are you having a laugh ref?”

“Seriously ref this is a joke!”

You might think these things are OK to shout out, people say it all the time when they are watching football on the TV, but as adults around a football pitch, we should be supporting and encouraging young refs, helping to build their confidence, so that they enjoy it and stay in the game. There is a huge shortage of referees, and every young person that gives up means that the pool is even smaller. Without referees, there are no games.

So as the parent of a young ref, all I ask is this: the next time you are about to shout at the ref (especially a young one), please be mindful that they’re just a kid, they’re probably nervous and they are new to this job. Instead of shouting abuse, let’s take our hats off to them for being brave and resilient enough to do a job most people would run a mile from.


The parent of a Young Referee