The FA's Respect campaign is failing

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The FA is in real trouble as the decline of the number of referees is becoming more glaringly obvious.

Since the Respect campaign was introduced in 2008 referees seem to be getting anything but respect. A torrent of abuse from fans and players alike means there is a lack of grassroots referees starting and a hesitation in climbing the footballing ladder as referees at all levels get
scrutinised on television.

We must all remember the important job that referees do. Without them the game would be impossible. Imagine a game with no referee; it would cause even more arguments.

Hardly ever seen on the TV is praise for officials. When there is a game with hardly any contentious decisions to make, nothing is mentioned on how the referee was not in the limelight.

We have replays zoomed in and slowed down to see the slightest clip on the toe that has sent a player down in the box, and when it is not given the officials are berated by a panel of ex-players that know exactly how fast the game goes and how the slightest touch can send you down when you’re running at full speed.

They are humans, not computers. They must process a lot of information in a split second and make a judgement call. It takes a brave person to make these calls in the biggest of games.

The truth is we should be championing refereeing. Yes, they are being paid high wages at the highest levels, but as you get further down towards grassroots the financial reward is less.

Go to any local Sunday League football match and you will see a referee getting around £25-£30 for the match, getting a tidal wave of abuse from both sides.

This is by players paying to play, not receiving high wages, but who still think they should be at a higher level. It gets worse at child level, with pushy parents shouting at the referee. What kind of example is that for a six-year old child playing their first match?

We can only look at the top level to see why officials at all levels get abused. Top players are shouting and swearing at officials for the tiniest of decisions. A close offside call or an obvious booking will be met by numerous expletives from the players and fans.

How can it all change? The comparison with Rugby Union will always be made at this point but so many lessons can be learnt. Rugby Union is one of the most aggressive, testosterone filled sports in the world, yet they can still have huge respect for the officials, and if they don’t it’s off to the sin bin.

Imagine a Premier League player addressing Howard Webb as “sir”. If a dissent sin bin was implicated, then the use of foul language towards officials would cost the team a player for 10 minutes.

That would cost the team, and mean the fans would get on to the player for causing them to be a man down.

Hopefully that would set the example to the next generation of players to respect the referees or it will cost the team. It may also encourage more youngsters to try refereeing, which is what we need to keep the game going from the bottom to the top.

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