In the final extract from the interview conducted with Martin Cassidy, the CEO of Match Official charity RefSupport, on the Toolstation Western league Podcast, presenter, Ian Nockolds, asks Martin for an update on Refsupports body cam campaign, in which the Toolstation Western League were instrumental in securing a change whether in World football law.
MC: Well, now there’s a law change. The FA are doing the world’s first ever body cam trial, and that was helped by the Western League standing up and saying, ‘we’d like to participate in it’. But the FA haven’t chosen this level of football to do the body cam trial at, it’s all for referees who are on their own. The body cam trial is now taking place in four different parts of the country. London, Worcester, Liverpool, and North Riding. It’s been going on for a few weeks now, we’ve heard lots of positivity about it. That’s a world changed; do you know what I mean? This is something that our campaign with the aid of the Western League raised it to such a profile that the FA went to IFAB, who are a section of FIFA, really - lawmakers - to bring this in. And we’re just hearing so much positivity about - see, it’s a double-edged sword, mate, isn’t it? Because if nothing happens, they’re gonna say, ‘ah, do we need them? Because nothing’s happened, it hasn’t caught anything.’ But has nothing happened because you’re using them? That’s why nothing’s happened.
So, massive, massive success in what we’re hearing back from the FA and other people involved in it. Clubs engaged with it really positively. Let’s be honest, there’s far better clubs and positive clubs than there are negative ones, but the negative ones are having more of an effect. The body cameras were all about referee abuse from the start, the very start of this campaign is about addressing all forms of abuse; racism, homophobic abuse, antisemitism. Any form of abuse, a body cam will deter it and will make the game better. If it’s a more enjoyable game, a less abusive game, more people will come to watch it particularly at grassroots level where spectators are a huge part of the community as well as the clubs.
So, we just couldn’t see anything bad about having the body cameras. And, of course, some referees have been caught out not talking to the players properly, wound a player up but it’s never been proved. So, obviously, the referees if they are talking to players inappropriately and you don’t really know about it, the tone or whatever, then that will get picked up again. So, the referee’s behaviour and how he or she talks to players will also improve. So, it’s just a win-win, do you know what I mean? I just think it’s great and, again, as an organisation, we will be forever grateful to the Western League for going public with that letter and saying, ‘we’ll have a go at this as well.’.
I think the next escalation will be bringing it up to a level of football where there are three officials, a ref and two linos, and then see again how it works there, which is going to be the next natural step. It’s going on to the end of this season and then the whole of next season, and then the data will be fed back to see if this will be allowed at any level again, which again, I don’t think there’s any reason not to.
IN: Martin, as always, it’s been incredibly engaging, we’ve covered a lot of ground, you’ve given us a lot of time and I’m incredibly grateful to you for that. So, thank you very much and I look forward to catching up next season on the Toolstation Western League podcast.
MC: If I can, mate, if I can, one of the things I’d like to talk about is the Western League Cup Final. Every year, it’s been going on for a long time, the referee in a Western League cup final - teams might not know about this - that he receives, or she, receives an award that we gave the Western League, the shield and trophy. It’s called a Mike North shield.
Mike was a football league referee who came through the Western League, he was in our association. A big, big, friend, lovely, lovely man, and he died on the pitch, had a heart attack at Southend. Since then, as a token of remembrance, to perpetuate his name in the game, this award is there and it’s that full now, the shield, they’re actually putting badges on the back of it now. It’s been going on that long, I can’t remember the exact date so forgive me, but if anyone looked at it, the Mike North Shield in regard to the referee Mike North who died on the pitch, you know, it’s another great thing that the Western League do for match officials that is always under the radar. So, look out for that at the Western League cup final this year, it’s another wonderful thing that the Western League do in regard to supporting match officials, so thanks to the Western League for that.