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Allegations of serious offences against referees on rise in grassroots game

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Dec 2023

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Allegations of serious offences against match officials in grassroots football increased slightly last season compared to 2021-22, new Football Association data shows.

In total there were 1,451 allegations of serious offences against a match official last season, an increase of one per cent on the prior campaign where 1,430 offences were recorded.

Seventy-two allegations of an actual or attempted assault were made in 2022-23, according to data contained in the FA’s Annual Grassroots Disciplinary Review which is being published later on Tuesday.

Of those, 53 led to charges being brought and 42 were proven, with 11 not proven on the balance of probabilities due to insufficient evidence.

To assist in improving conviction rates even further, the FA has now extended a trial using body cameras in grassroots football to eight county associations to act as a deterrent against abuse towards match officials.

The FA said earlier this month that referees have faced no instances of abuse in around 500 matches since the trial began in February.

In addition to the 72 assaults or attempted assaults, there were 391 allegations of physical contact or attempted physical contact and 988 allegations relating to threatening a match official.

Participant behaviour towards referees is in the spotlight following an attack on a referee in Turkey last week. Halil Umut Meler was punched by the president of MKE Ankaragucu, Faruk Koca, at the end of a match on December 11.

Koca was arrested over the incident and has since been issued with a permanent ban by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).

Manchester City were fined £120,000 by an independent regulatory commission on Monday after their players surrounded referee Simon Hooper during their Premier League match against Tottenham on December 3.

The review marks the first time the FA has collated data on disciplinary matters from the grassroots game.

Overall, there were 3,636 allegations of serious misconduct – a nine per cent increase on the previous season – with 82 per cent of charges being proven.

There was also a 10 per cent increase in the number of allegations of discrimination, with the average sanction for proven charges being a seven-match suspension.

Alongside the body camera trials, the FA has also introduced points deductions and ground closures for teams involved in serious or repeat instances of misconduct.

The FA has also launched its ‘Enough Is Enough’ campaign to raise awareness of discriminatory behaviour in the grassroots game and how to report it when it occurs.

The game’s national governing body has also launched a joint action plan alongside Kick It Out, the anti-discrimination charity, to proactively tackle incidents of discrimination and serious misconduct in grassroots football.

“Providing this level of transparency is really important to us so that everyone can have a better understanding of the levels of serious misconduct across the game,” the FA’s senior discipline manager Fraser Williamson said.

“It also makes clear that we take all allegations of this nature very seriously and that we will take action against offenders.

“We know that incidents of serious misconduct are on the rise across the grassroots game, however we’re clear that this will not be tolerated and that perpetrators will face consequences.

“We’ve recently implemented a number of interventions across our game to help improve the culture and behaviour of participants, both on the pitch and on the sidelines, and we will continue to do all we can to ensure our game is safe and welcoming for all.”

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