Last week The Journal published the first in a serial of extracts from an interview conducted with Martin Cassidy, the CEO of the RefSupport, on the Toolstation Western league Podcast. In this second extract, Podcast presenter, Ian Nockolds, asks Martin about the campaigns he has been promoting over the past season.
MC: We did a paper to the FA about referees who are 18 and under, and why when you threaten and verbally abuse a match official, or heaven forbid, hit them, and they’re 18 or under, that is a safeguarding issue - this is child welfare here that we’re talking about. So, we did a big piece a while back that we hear now that actually the FA are going to bring it into place. Things like if a match official sends off a manager or a player, they can appeal it, and then the referee has got to sit there in front of these people and get questioned. Well, that’s, against safeguarding processes and procedures if that referee is under the age of 18, sometimes there’s 14-year-old referees sat in a room getting questioned by adults, and there was no support offered. So, it was a real big identification piece, that’s been a big one, I mean we just hope the FA are gonna really ... they said over 18 months ago, they were gonna publish these guidelines around the paper we did with one of our ambassadors, but that hasn’t come.
Going public with regards to the kit bank, like I said, that’s really positive, because, you know, people can’t afford the kit and we want more match officials to come through and we don’t want finance to be a barrier to that. So, we do a lot of that. And we’ve paid for a few courses this year, that referees who can’t afford to take the course, we’ve paid it for them and off they go. A lot of referees have been embarrassed, so they don’t really want to talk about that publicly, they don’t want us to say because people are embarrassed about that situation. But we do lots of positivity around that.
The big points that’s been in the national and international presses is - there’s been three big things - one is the two-metre rule that came in over the discussions of what’s happened with Mitrovic, what happened with Andy Robertson. We always had this idea that there should be some form of exclusion zone, we visualise it like a Subbuteo man on that circle and he can’t go in that circle whether it’s like a metre or two metres, whatever. But there’s no, like, barriers to stop a match official and a player coming in contact in a way that is deemed aggressive or abusive. I think that that’s got mega legs, that went all over the world, did interviews all over the world over that.
On the back of the Mitrovic thing, what Mitrovic did was completely out of order, you know, there’s advice in the FA guidance with regards to if you do threaten a match official in the way he did, that’s a 182-day ban. But for some reason, the FA have got a different punishment level at pro level than they have lower down so if that happens at Western League level, that should kick in at 182 days banned.
If you look at some of the punishments that people published out there, then the recent one, which is - I’ve got a lot of stick over this from my own family as Liverpool fan - is what happened with Jurgen Klopp when he ran to the fourth official and celebrated that goal, didn’t he? And that was just out of order. I was always getting stick when I was having a go at Solskjaer, and had a go at Warnock and all these other managers they’re saying, ‘oh, you’re only doing that because you’re a Scouser’ and so obviously doing it to Klopp had the other effect, with all the Liverpool fans coming at me saying, ‘you’re a disgrace, you’re a Judas.’ But Klopp has turned into this sort of Mercedes version of Neil Warnock, do you know what I mean? Where he’s just turned into this pantomime character, where he wasn’t when he first got here - a total breath of fresh air.
I was born and bred in Anfield, but I moved down South into the West Country thirty three years ago, so I’ve been down here longer than I lived in Liverpool but my family still live in Anfield or live by the ground so to see someone like this acting like that, it’s hurtful as a Liverpool fan. I’ve got to be able to say publicly that it’s out of order because I’m not buying this “passion” lark. A lot of people say even at grassroots level, ‘oh it’s passion, it’s passion.’ Well, Kenny Dalglish, Bob Paisley, Shankly, Fagan, they were all passionate about football, just as passionate as Jurgen Klopp, but they aren’t doing the antics that he’s doing. So, I don’t buy this “passion” lark. But I just think that’s still a piece that’s coming up now because he hasn’t been charged for it and then when he got banned the first time, we wrote to the FA and said, ‘look, you fined him £30,000, that’s about a day-and-a-half’s wages for him. That’s not the impact you need, you need to appeal that and ban him, and they did, so I’ve got a bit of stick over that.
We’ve got to be consistent in what we talk about publicly of the behaviour of these managers that are there and, currently, that’s ongoing where we genuinely believe that there should be harsher punishments for that behaviour.
Not specific to Klopp, but any manager at that level who rants and raves and does that, there should be an escalation like there are in every discipline process, where you get to a point where you’re like, ‘if you do this again, we’re going to deduct points from you.’
Now, in Ireland, they’ve already got that in place. A match official got assaulted, got his ribs broken unfortunately, very sad to see, caught on video, we posted a video ... that team got deducted 10 points. And the player who did it appealed, believe it or not, because he got a five-year ban, but because he appeals they put that ban up by another two years, which they’re allowed to do within the FA policies, procedure, and process - same as England. There’s lots going on with that, we’ve said it directly gets reflected down what’s happening at grassroots level.
Then we’ve had an incident where a match official got a pint thrown over him in the Western League, which was public. Western League were amazing; stepped in straightaway, because he was in his car, and they threw it through the window and it went all over the car. So, it’s obviously got electrics in there, you got the seats, he’d got his suits.
Western League stood up immediately, because they’ve always been brilliant supporting referees and said, ‘we’ll pay for the cost of all that, we’ll get it off the club.’ So, it’ll be interesting to see what develops on that. And three different people from different parts of the West Country contacted me directly through our hotline and told us who it was. And we’ve advised the referee to go to the police, get the police involved.
Nigel Farage got a milkshake thrown over him, and that lad got done for criminal damage and assault I think it was, or common assault. So, that’s the realms we’re in here. So, the club involved - they know who they are, if they don’t step up - and I’ve advised the referee to get the police involved, because we just can’t have that sort of behaviour, particularly at the Western League level.
From our point of view, it’s the closest league to our hearts and our intentions.
Next week, Ian and Martin discuss how the laws of the game relate to the laws of the land and where, from a Match Officials point of view, a game starts and ends. The full interview with Martin can be found online below.