Attacks force refs to quit Survey shows pitch violence is turning soccer referees away from the game

ALMOST half the referees in amateur football have considered hanging up their boots because of a rising tide of violence on the pitch.

Attacks on officials - including an assault that nearly killed a man, an incident in which a car was driven at a referee, and another in which a player produced a gun and a machete to settle an argument - are the biggest single factor in driving refereesout of the game, according to a survey published today.

The survey, conducted by the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research in Leicester, paints a picture of worsening behaviour on the football field and of a culture of abuse and dissent aimed at match officials.

It shows that 48.9 per cent of referees from a sample of 463 have considered giving up the game, mainly because of "harassment by players/fans". When asked what was the worst thing about being a referee, 69.5 per cent cited abuse from players and spectators, and, when asked about standards of behaviour among players, 63.2 per cent said they were deteriorating.

The research, thought to be the first of its kind, was carried out by Jon Williams, senior researcher at the Sir Norman Chester Centre among referees in the Birmingham County FA district after the 1993/94 season.

"Most of the referees felt that what was happening on the pitch reflected the violence and lack of respect for authority in society," said Mr Williams. "There is a very low level of morale indeed. The survey showed that the central issues concerning referees revolve around the threat of physical violence, abuse, lack of discipline and dissent."

The Football Association in London said the number of assaults on amateur referees - ranging from light shoves to incidences of serious injury - is static, although it rose slightly last year from 339 in 1992/93 to 356. But at county level, officials saythreats and abuse aimed at referees are on the increase.

Last year, Brian Kelly, then aged 28, was punched after sending off a player who hit an opponent during a game in Bexley, Kent. His skull was fractured and he was in a coma for 10 days after having a blood clot removed from his brain. His assailant, Timothy Farnham, 31, was jailed for nine months.

In Scotland last October, a referee who sent off a player was subsequently chased across the pitch by the player in his car. The match was abandoned. A similar incident, involving a van, happened in Nottingham last March. In the same month, a referee officiating in Dulwich, south-east London, was called upon to calm down a player who had walked off the pitch, gone home and returned with a .22 revolver and a machete.

The FA says more referees are registered than ever before, although they do not know how many are active; but some counties say they are recruiting fewer referees than those that have left. The London Football Association, which has about 2,100 teams under its umbrella, has 913 referees on its books, compared with 934 last year.

Alan Nathan, the London region's representative on the divisional committee of the Referees' Association, said violence against its members was increasing inexorably. "There is no question that it is increasing," he said. "The lack of respect for authority manifests itself when people follow supposedly recreational pursuits which they use as an outlet for all the violence and aggression they feel.

"Referees are far more likely to be thumped these days than ever before. It can be very frightening for an official when players round on him. We're just about holding our own at the moment, but I think we could be seeing a shortage of referees in the future."

Jon Williams believes a new image would help referees to appear more like "one of us" and less like "one of them".

He said: "In our Birmingham survey, we found very few working-class, black, Asian or female referees. Instead, we found men who did their best but often felt isolated and alone. They felt that no one talked to them before or after the game; at half-time no one offered them a cup of tea. Basically, they felt threatened and unloved.

"If they were to appear less austere and stuffy, if they reflected the players' social status more, then I think they might find that they are accepted more as part of the overall team and less as the outsider there to be abused."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there