Worcestershire FA is delighted to share details of national recognition following the success of our Referee Mentor Scheme.
Our guaranteed mentoring support for all new match officials is part of our dedicated efforts to recruit, retain and develop our referee workforce. Following the positive impact of the early stages of the project, we were shortlisted for Referee Development award as part of The FA’s County FA Recognition Awards. Find out more about our scheme below.
Between 2018 and 2022, Worcestershire FA identified trends in the lack of retention of referees. The overwhelming majority of referees being lost to our game were Trainee, Level Y (Youth) or Level 7 (Junior County Referee), meaning that they were in the infancy of their referee careers. Following feedback from exit surveys and communication with leagues, clubs, referees and parents/carers of U18s, it was clear that the lack of post-course support was having a direct impact on our retention of referees. Referees would often complete their referee course and were then left to go out and officiate with little/no feedback or support until something went wrong.
Something had to change.
This project has always been about more than just numbers and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It aims to enhance our development of people – both referees and mentors – through the following objectives:
Objective 1: Upskill and develop people to form a mentor workforce
Objective 2: Convert new referees into fully qualified
Objective 3: Retain new referees beyond their first season
Objective 4: Identify talent and direct into the Progression Pathway
As a starting point, we promised to give every new referee a mentor who would attend one of their first five matches with the aim of one further follow-up visit at a second match. This was in addition to ‘offline’ advice and support via agreed communication methods. The intention was to provide referees with a guaranteed level of support in the early stages of their career in order for them to have a positive experience and therefore convert into a fully qualified match official and, furthermore, be retained beyond their first season.
- We identified the need to incentivise a voluntary workforce to become qualified mentors
- We obtained funding which contributed to the role of a Mentor Coordinator, mentor expenses and County FA kit/equipment to remove the barrier of watching referees in inclement weather
- We appointed a Mentor Coordinator before recruiting and training 30 mentors
- We created a simple to use and simple to understand referee feedback form for mentors to provide written feedback in addition to observations on match day
Mentors were generally members of the referee workforce (active match officials, coaches, observers) but this was not a pre-requisite and helped us to recruit some excellent football volunteers to support referees too.
To date, the figures following the implementation of our mentor scheme are very positive:
Referee Retention – 76 new referees (87.35%) that were first registered during 2021/22 were retained for 2022/23 (only 11 did not re-register) – a retention increase of over 35%.
Referee Conversion – 68 referees converted to fully qualified in 2021/22 and 57 referees converted to fully qualified in 2022/23 – exceeding our target.
Referee Progression – 8 referees progressed in 2022/23 having registered for the first time within the previous 24 months, demonstrating that those with ability can progress in the infancy of their career – another key retention mechanism.
The feedback has been clear.
The huge upturn in numbers is without doubt due to the positive impact of the mentoring scheme and can be evidenced by the fact that, prior to the introduction of the mentor scheme, retention of new referees was circa 50%. Such has been the success, we have committed to sustaining the programme for future years and enhancing it further.
We have already implemented this in a second County FA (Herefordshire) who have seen a similar enhancement to their referee support for new match officials. The key is to have the right Mentor Coordinator and a suitable ‘offer’ to incentivise mentors as their commitment is imperative for the scheme to work. In terms of sustainability, given the clear impact the scheme has had in terms of people development (both referees and mentors) alongside the improvement in refereeing standards, we have the support of our Board of Directors to continue this scheme. We are also looking for a sponsor.
Are you interested in becoming a referee or one of our mentors? Email: email@example.com