From the 2019/20 season, all referees under the age of 18 that are registered with Somerset FA are being offered a free purple shirt to wear during matches.
The Purple Shirt campaign aims to support young referees by raising awareness of the challenges they face from players, coaches and spectators.
What is less well known is that 14 to 18 year olds are the largest group to qualify as referees but then not re-register for a second season, with many citing the abuse they face as their reason for leaving. Football has to do more to help encourage youngsters to stay in the game, and we hope the purple shirt campaign will be a good way of doing this.
Throughout the duration of any youth game, players get help from their team mates and support from the touchline. We are asking all participants – players, coaches, managers, spectators – to remember that our young referees also need a positive learning environment in which to perform to the best of their ability, but more importantly to enojy the game that they love.
The majority of young referees in Somerset thoroughly enjoy their time with the whistle, and we are grateful to all of the clubs that make them feel welcome and valued at matches. However, it is important to remember that there is no excuse for verbal or physical abuse towards referees, regardless of age or level. In cases where young people are involved, abuse is a safeguarding issue and we are giving more training to our referees in order to help them deal with incidents if and when they occur. Don’t forget that some of the young referees in youth football, and indeed adult football, may chose not to wear a purple shirt.
It is important to remember that all referees deserve respect, regardless of the colour of their shirt.
In summary, this campaign is about improving the match day experience for everyone involved. Reducing incidents of intimidation and abuse from the touchline will certainly help to retain more young referees, but it will also help to improve the overall atmosphere at games, giving the young players and match officials the environment they need to in order to improve their skills, reach their potential and, most importantly, enjoy the game.
For more information about the campaign, as well as details on how to receive your purple shirt, please contact Matt Eva.