In the latest of our series of extracts 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 how the abuse of match officials is manifesting itself on social media and what RefSupport are doing to address this.

MC: We are, absolutely 100%, addressing this more. And I think if more and more people - and I don’t think VAR has helped, you know. Honestly, I know this sounds ridiculous, because VAR is not down at the levels that we are talking about currently, it’s this entitlement to have a go. VAR was brought in to help the match official. Now, it’s a tool to beat them up with. If you get it wrong, you’re absolutely castigated. If you get it spot on and they check it with VAR they say, ‘ah, he got it right.’ 

The one I brought up which again caused a bit of a stir on social media was when Klopp first got that ban for having a go at the lino there was a photograph of him screaming down the assistant referee Gary Beswick. He was the one that disallowed the goal for the equaliser on Saturday just gone, so I put a tweet out, ‘oh, did you know that? That assistant referee who put that decision right to disallow the goal, which would have been an equaliser, was the same referee who Klopp got banned for abusing?’ They all said, ‘what’s that got to do with it?’ 

Let’s all praise someone for doing the job right. But what it was evidence of was: they get it wrong, they get battered; if they get it right, no one says a word, even though it was a real, tight, match-defining decision. And that’s the hypocrisy what’s in football, which is why we do what we do. And then immediately after that, another lad tweeted about ‘the referee was a disgrace and should never referee again.’ 

In their game they did they lost 5-0. They lost 5-0, he could not equate the fact that he’s blaming a referee, and they lost 5-0. When I challenged him about it - ‘how many goals did the ref score? How many goals did the lino score?’ He then blocks the account. 

These people need to recognise that you’ve gone on too long having ridiculous pops at match officials, which stops people coming into the game. We have less people coming into the game and then the standard is diluted because you’ve got less to pick from. So, all these people who are crying that the standard of refereeing is rubbish, the next week they’re battering referees on social media and then they’re tweeting about mental health, how important mental health is. Which we agree it is really important, it’s why we’ve got mental health ambassadors and first aiders. And then they abuse the referee, name and shame them. As if they go, ‘everyone’s mental health is important, apart from this match official who just gave a dodgy penalty against us.’ It’s this hypocrisy is why we know it’s working, because loads of people come to us and then people apologise. 

If you remember, Willand, I know they’ve gone up to... they’re in the Southern League now, aren’t they? The great Western League loved everyone at that club. Really, really good. They had someone tweet, and the first tweet they’re having a go at the referee. We pulled them up on it, Chairman apologised, publicly apologised, because it was a student or someone that was tweeting. 

These people who are tweeting on official club accounts have got to understand that their views, whether right or wrong, are the view of the club, not that person sitting there tweeting at the game. And that’s important. And I get the other way around, I get people questioning me, ‘Is this your opinion?’ And I say, ‘well, my opinion of abusing a referee, I guarantee you, it’s gonna be the same as all the other trustees.’ So, I guarantee it. But when someone’s sat there saying, ‘that was never a penalty, referee’s a disgrace, shouldn’t referee again’ on a club official Twitter account that’s not a good look for any club is it? Particularly at good clubs like Willand and all the others like Bridgwater Town, look how big they’ve become now. You don’t ever see them giving it loads on their twitter account. And other clubs, the Hallen’s of this world - you never hear anything about Hallen giving it loads. 

But some other clubs it seems the default setting is, ‘we’re getting beat 1-0’, and find a reason why that’s the referee’s fault. You know, I just don’t get it, I really don’t get it.

Next week, Ian asks Martin whether he’s grown weary over the years of calling out increasingly more worrying incidents of Match Official abuse, or whether he’s as up for the fights as ever! The full interview with Martin can be found online at

Or click to listen below: