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 number of incidents of Match Official abuse reported during the last season compares with previous seasons.

MC: Definitely getting worse. And it looks like they’re getting reported less from what was happening. But because the FA are saying, ‘oh, it’s still only 0.1%’, but we’re getting twice as many calls, three times as many calls. Even on our hotline when we first launched it four or five years ago, we had more calls in a month than the FA had in the year about assaults. And these people were telling us they’d been assaulted and hadn’t reported it. So, we know there’s disconnect. We absolutely know and, interestingly, our profile what we’ve got, there’s only one county FA in the country that promotes us. None of the others do and the FA don’t. So, when people say, ‘oh, we’re all FA orientated’ and stuff like that, we’re not, we’re fairness orientated. We want to be fair to the clubs, we want to be fair to the referees. We’re in this sort of area, like I said earlier, it’s no man’s land, where we’ll have a go at the FA, but we’ll also have a go at a club, or even sometimes a referee. 

We actually went on record about the incident with Paul Tierney and [Jurgen] Klopp; he walked right into Klopp’s face; I mean he was almost poking him in the chest. Well, actually, three weeks earlier, we’re saying there should be a two-metre zone, so we’d be hypocrites if we didn’t pull that up and say, ‘actually, that isn’t a really good image that’. 

So, we’re always very fair in what we’ve done and, like I said, there’s clubs who might be listening to this now in the Western League - and there’s a few - who have come to me direct asked for help in regard to what happens when a match official has done something. Because, again, we’ve got to be fair. Some match officials do make big mistakes. Some match officials do have an attitude that we don’t think is conducive to a positive relationship with clubs. We know this. Right down to how some people claim expenses, we’ve had lots of little nuances with clubs who have come to us and said, ‘this lad’s charged us from home, but I know he works down the road, he’s come straight from work.’ So, we’ve had these sorts of incidents in there, which, you know, we help clubs and we’re there to help clubs, we really do. 

There are some wonderful, wonderful people involved in all levels of footballing ... talking about the Western League here, you know, some of the lads I refereed and some of the managers have now moved on to Chairman, who we used to deal with. There’s absolutely loads of people that I can engage with, who I would treat them as real fair, honest, hardworking people. And it’s not fair for them to be treated in a manner that we might deem unfair because a referee has done something untoward, or has done things like that, particularly when money is tight. 

So, you know, the majority of match officials, I believe, are real, honest, straightforward, but there is always going to be, like in any element of any society where there’s people who could do better and should be better.

Next week, Ian and Martin discuss how the abuse of match officials is manifesting itself on social media and what RefSupport are doing to address this .The full interview with Martin can be found online at: