August 26th 2020
Referee's Told: Come To Us And Feel Valued

As referees who work in FA leagues spoke of their fears of being murdered on the pitch, the worlds largest provider of 6 a side football has told match officials: come to us and be valued.

National media has been full of stories recently of referees being attacked, with the case of Satyam Toki being particularly highlighted. The London official suffered injuries to his eye after being violently assaulted and explained: “[The player] lost his temper and attacked me, punching me three times on my face. He tried to attack me again but some of the players stopped him. He then ran away from the ground.”

The London-based whistler now plans to take the matter to the courts. ‘If I don’t press charges, this individual would get away and tomorrow, who knows, he might bring a knife and murder a referee on the pitch,’ Toki told the Daily Mail. This has led to referees leaving the 11-a side game in their hundreds, as the FA refuse to take the issue of their welfare seriously.

Now, Leisure Leagues’ Head of Refereeing, Martin Cassidy, who has been working with Satyam to ensure his welfare, has told other referees: “Don’t turn your back on the game altogether, come to us.”

Leisure Leagues are independent of the FA, as amongst other things, the tax-payer funded body are, not strong enough on discipline, which Martin puts down to a lack of empathy with those actually doing the job: “It seems to me,” he said, “that there is a huge disconnect between the national and the day to day.”

This leads to referees feeling undervalued, but that is not the case at Leisure Leagues, as Martin – a former top-flight official himself – explains: “We operate a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to all violence and dissent, and because we are in a position to take charge, as it were, of our own leagues, we are able to ban players immediately and permanently. The referee is given real control of those he is officiating. That is very important, as it gives the referee proper authority.”

As leagues get going again after Covid-19, Referee safety has been at the heart of the post Coronavirus resumption. As well as players not wearing bibs and teams paying online for fixtures so referees don’t need to carry cash, another one of the rule changes that were brought in to ensure the leagues were safe was that all players stay two metres away from the match officials. This is a move that Martin said was “vital”. “Not only does it help eradicate the potential spread of Covid-19, but it is vital to improve the experience for referees. Dissent needs to be stamped out.”

Leisure Leagues will also be taking delivery of brand new face-masks in the next few days, and those will be provided – as with all other equipment – to referees.

Signing up to Leisure Leagues will immediately put referees on a pathway which could see them represent their country in the 6 a side world cup and other major events, with Martin explaining: “We are the driving force behind the International Socca Federation and provide all the referees for their tournaments. The elite group includes Mark Clattenburg (pictured above) who helps train them as well as appearing at the last two world cup tournaments himself.

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