THE DEVELOPMENT manager for referees in Herefordshire has said that a 30 per cent fall in numbers has been caused by behaviour towards them.

Ollie Williams, HFA Referee Development Manager, believes that the continued abuse of officials is the main cause of a reduction this year.


“Herefordshire has never had a large number of referees so to lose around 30% is an enormous hit," said Williams.

“We’ve had feedback ranging from moving away to university, to not wanting to come back after being away for so long with the pandemic.

“However, the main feedback we get is based on behaviour towards referees.

"Many referees have said to me ‘why would I bother?’ – they have simply had enough of being shouted at and criticised just because they are wearing a black kit.”

There have been several initiatives, including dissent sin-bins which have proven a welcome addition, alongside purple shirts for junior referees.

Williams would welcome stronger sanctions with referee-based discipline to keep as many involved as possible.

“When problems are reported, there are processes in place to ensure that sanctions are issued," added Williams.

"I would fully support stronger sanctions from The FA nationally for offenders as a lot of my working week is unfortunately spent talking to referees who have been on the end of unacceptable abuse and are thinking about quitting.”

Several powers that be in Herefordshire, including a now Football League level referee, have come together to remind the general public of the benefits of becoming a referee.

Neale Tookey, referees’ appointment secretary, said that he believes the pandemic is an instigator for a decline in referees.

“This year, we decreased from 32 to 21 referees across Herefordshire," added Tookey

“This is down to a number of reasons. We had several depart for university, and some called it quits after the pandemic having found new hobbies.

“There are so many benefits to refereeing despite the culture that still remains.

“I really hope that next year, after more courses are completed, we can see a new influx.”

It is also easy to forget that it is a viable career path. Kevin Morris has gone from a trainee referee at grassroots levels to running the line in the English Football League.

“I qualified at 14 and am now in my 30th season as the senior referee in Herefordshire," Morris added.

“There is still a lot to do in grassroots to ensure younger referees are nurtured, respected and not demotivated. It is a really enjoyable hobby which can turn into a job.

“I’ve officiated at all three levels in the EFL, the FA Cup, and Carabao Cup.”

The HFA have a referee’s course now available to attend from October 13 to 16.

Anybody interested can find out more by emailing: or calling 01432 342179.