Throughout Derbyshire and the wider nation, there is a real need to provide match officials within the game.
Discussions between Chesterfield College and Education Partnerships Groups (EPGs) highlighted that many fixtures are refereed by coaches or unqualified volunteers. Each County FA, on average, has only 42 qualified female officials. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in the abuse of officials and subsequently a rise in mental health issues, which is increasing the number of officials dropping out of the game.
The aim of the Referee Academy at Chesterfield College was to support young people to pursue different officiating opportunities within futsal and football. The project was designed to train, deploy and develop officials through collaborative efforts between Derbyshire FA and grassroots leagues and partners; Sheffield United FC Academy and Derby County Community Foundation. The main objective was to engage 24 students who would become qualified referees, with each student undertaking a minimum of 5 hours officiating. A secondary objective was to target a minimum of four female referees to service the game.
Watch the video below to see how the Referee Academy was successful:
Qualified Officials - In total, 24 young people were recruited, upskilled and trained to be qualified officials through the referee academy. More impressively, seven were females. Qualifications: FA Playmaker by England Football, FA Introduction to Coaching Football (Level 1) and FA Introduction to Futsal.
Industry Experience - Chesterfield College provided young people with new opportunities to put their training and skills into action, and to gain real-life industry experience. It has also allowed students to reflect on what they have learned and understand why referees, in games they play and/or watch, have made certain decisions. This includes officiating intra-mural futsal and football matches, officiating at St. George's Park football festival, and officiating at the EFL Cup.
“I definitely believe this has improved my college experience, as this opportunity is something I can look back on fondly in future years.", said a participant.
"We offered all these opportunities to gain experience in a way they feel comfortable. We don’t want them in games where they get crushed, it could kill the progress and they may not want to do continue refereeing. For example, we supported the EFL cup and students had a really good setting to officiate; it was a good environment. They did it in pairs to reduce nerves/anxiety, which makes it less daunting.”, said the project lead.
"Often, when I come to the competitive games I play at a weekend for my local team it’s left me thinking of the referee’s perspective in certain scenarios; I feel like I can connect and understand why they may have made certain decisions." , said another participant.
After this years success, the college would like to continue the refereeing academy, and open it up to more students.