Referee Abuse: The dark side of grassroots football

Hundreds of referees have told the BBC that they fear for their safety when officiating games and that more needs to be done to tackle the abuse.


Interview with Daniel Maguire

In a recent survey where over 900 referees were questioned by BBC Radio 5 Live, 293 said they have been physically abused by spectators, players, coaches or managers. Some referees have said they’ve been punched, headbutted and spat at.

What the questionnaire revealed

  • Of the 927 respondents, 908 said they’d experienced verbal abuse from either spectators, players, coaches or managers.
  • 378 of the 927 referees said they are “often” or “sometimes” worried about their safety.
  • There were a total of 57 people who had received a death threat against them or their family/friends.
  •  375 had received personal abuse about things like their appearance, gender, race or sexual orientation.

What will the FA do?

The FA have said that they will trial the use of referees wearing body cameras in adult grassroots football to help prevent abuse. 

An FA spokesperson said: “The aim of the trial, the first globally of this nature, would be to explore whether the use of body cams improves participant behaviour, while providing additional safety for match officials in the adult grassroots game.”

Some referees have said that body cams won’t be that effective in stopping abuse.

Daniel Maguire, Durham F.A, said: “I don’t think the cameras will do much. Players are still going to give the same types of abuse.

“They need to introduce some strict laws, start fining teams, and start deducting points. Something that makes the teams stop doing it.”