Worcestershire FA provides coloured socks to support under 18 referees in the early stage of their careers.
Since the 2019/20 season, referees in Worcestershire under the age of 18 have been wearing fluorescent yellow socks. The #SeeTheSocks initiative is aiming to enhance the experience that young referees have in a positive environment.
Historically, Worcestershire loses around 80 referees each year with over 20% stating that “poor player/club behaviour” was the cause for not re-registering. Nationally, just 10-15% of referees continue to officiate after their first year. This needs to change.
It is often overlooked that youth referees are new to officiating and still learning. The purpose of #SeeTheSocks is to remind everyone that not only is the referee still learning and developing their refereeing ability, but that they are also a minor under the age of 18 and should be treated with the same care and safeguarding protocols that apply to youth players and coaches.
With many referees in the county under the age of 18, this means they are still subject to children’s safeguarding legislation, and should therefore be protected, encouraged, and treated with the utmost respect.
Everyone – including players, coaches, spectators, and officials – have a duty to ensure that safeguarding protocols are adhered to.
Ollie Williams, Worcestershire FA Referee Development Manager, said: “Nearly one-third of our registered referees in Worcestershire are under the age of 18. It is vitally important that they are supported and allowed to do their job so that we can retain them.
“The idea of the bright coloured socks is to help identify referees who are minors. The socks will hopefully act as a trigger to players, coaches and spectators not to make the remark that may be in their head as they understand the likely safeguarding connotations of doing so.
"We must understand that referees will make mistakes just like the young players they are refereeing – this is all part of their development and I would ask that managers, coaches, parents and spectators respect this. If anyone has an issue with a young referee, they should contact the County FA direct and not undertake any discussions with the referee.
Nichola Trigg, Worcestershire FA Chief Executive Officer, added: “Safeguarding in football is paramount. It is hugely important that referees also enjoy the role they play in ensuring football is a great experience for everyone. By introducing this new initiative, we are hoping to remind others that referees should be treated with respect and for those referees under 18 they are entitled to the same safeguarding protection as other under 18s who may play or coach.”
PLEASE NOTE: Any incidents involving poor behaviour to an under 18 referee wearing coloured socks will be dealt with by BOTH our Safeguarding and Discipline departments. Recently, with the support of Leagues, a small number of teams have had fixtures suspended following poor behaviour towards referees. This type of behaviour is unacceptable and must stop.
For more information about the #SeeTheSocks campaign, or for any queries regarding refereeing in Worcestershire, please contact Worcestershire FA’s Referee Department at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To follow the progress of #SeeTheSocks, and for updates about refereeing in the county via Twitter, follow: @WFAHFARefs