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Football Association 'like a fascist organisation' with referees, grassroots official tells talkSPORT


A grassroots football referee has told talkSPORT the FA behaves ‘like a fascist organisation’ in how it controls match officials.

The referee, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said: “I have found that even speaking out on social media – if the FA catches wind of it, that will affect your development as a referee. They just don’t accept it. They think you are bringing the game into disrepute so you can get charged and it is not fair.

“It is almost like a fascist organisation sometimes because they are not letting you have freedom of speech that you should have because we are not under contractual obligations.”

The man says officials are let down by FA regulations that prohibit the use of recording devices. He believes the rule dissuades referees from reporting abuse they suffer on the pitch and harms their case if they do.

“I know for a fact [the County FA] are going to say ‘where is the evidence’, because I have got no-one backing me up.”

Last year a grassroots campaign was launched to equip match officials with body cameras. But this referee insists the footballing authorities were against it.

“I was told specifically by someone at my county FA: ‘Do not share anything that is posted about it, because the FA are watching’. We can’t say anything without fearing our own refereeing career going down the toilet. We can’t stand up for something that we believe in.”

The FA’s disciplinary procedures have been under the spotlight since talkSPORT revealed a 15 year old referee had been threatened with a misconduct charge by Lancashire FA when he said he was too nervous to attend a hearing at which the three adults who abused him would be present.

Since then, talkSPORT has been contacted by a number of referees and others who have raised concerns about safeguarding and the protection of match officials at grassroots level.

The Chairman of the Bolton, Bury & District Football League, Gary Russell, described the system as “completely broken”.

“Six weeks ago a West Ham player was banned for [six] games for spitting at an opponent. A 16 year old grassroots footballer who has asperger syndrome was disciplined for the same reason. He has been banned for six months – from all football activity.”

Around 700 teams compete in the BBDFL, which is affiliated to Lancashire FA. Mr Russell believes inconsistencies also occur within grassroots football itself.

“A coach of an under 16s team abused and assaulted an opposition player. [The case] was proven by Lancashire FA: a proven assault of a minor. He got a four game ban. Yet I am dealing with somebody who has a disability – I’m not condoning the spitting – who gets a six month ban from all football activity.”

Those to have contacted talkSPORT over the matter are pointing the finger at Wembley where the FA’s rules and regulations are written. 

Adam, which is not his real name, gave up refereeing after becoming disillusioned at the FA’s response to incidents of assault. He said: “You are just expected to take abuse and not raise any concerns about it, although the FA will never come out and say that.”

He added: “I reported a young player for following me out to my car because I had sent him off during the game. He said the next time he saw me he was going to kill me. He got an extra one game ban. The FA are very scared to upset the clubs by dishing out fines and punishments.”

talkSPORT has also been made aware that a County FA overturned a red card given to a player for a headbutt without informing the referee, who discovered the decision on social media. 

The FA and Lancashire FA have been invited to participate in a discussion on the Jim White show on Tuesday 13th March. Lancashire FA declined.  

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