The FA announce plan to improve every aspect of grassroots refereeing and inspire the next generation of referees in England
The FA has launched an ambitious new strategy for grassroots refereeing in England, providing a clear direction for the future of officiating over the next three years and beyond.
The landmark strategy sets out a plan to ensure world class referees are being developed through the pathway from grassroots to elite, so that the game is officiated at the highest possible standards and refereeing thrives both now, and in the future.
The strategy, titled ‘To Grow, Guide and Govern’, outlines four key transformational goals through to 2026:
- Making refereeing an attractive career choice – Halving the time it takes to reach the top levels and providing slicker, easier admin via one system across the game.
- Improving referee experience – Introducing new rewards & recognition and the implementation of behavioural change initiatives, including the trial of bodycams for grassroots referees.
- Making refereeing more inclusive – A commitment to a 50% increase in referees from historically under-represented communities and a 50% increase of female referees
- Enhancing referee performance and development – Tripling online resources and training and doubling investment in our development system.
The three-year long strategy also commits to ensuring the safety and continued enjoyment of referees at all levels by reducing abuse and making referees feel truly valued on and off the pitch.
Point deductions will be introduced for teams across the grassroots game from the start of the 2023-24 season if their players or coaches commit repeated offences of serious misconduct. In addition, body cams are currently being trialled for grassroots referees and this will continue to run across the 2023/24 season.
The strategy also commits to building a culture that provides opportunities for all in refereeing by actively addressing barriers to inclusion. Action will include a national campaign to increase referees by 50% from historically under-represented backgrounds and the launch of a bursary to part fund places on entry-level refereeing courses for referees from under-represented backgrounds.
A number of interventions to speed up the development pathway will also be made including the introduction of mid-year promotions and the removal of observer scores to promote focus on development.
Mark Bullingham, The FA’s Chief Executive said:
"Referees are the lifeblood of our game, so this new strategy is critical to attracting and retaining our match officials. We need to create a safe, inclusive and enjoyable environment for referees at all levels and to offer strong support throughout their career.
The strategy also outlines our targets and positive action programmes that will further diversify the referee and match official community.
Critically, we have also halved the time it takes to progress to the top of the game, to increase its attractiveness as a career choice.”
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