Grassroots football referees to trial body camera in Liverpool

Grassroot football referees are trialing body camera in games to reduce the level of abuse they receive.

The Liverpool County FA referee’s department have started the training for officials to use video cameras during the matches.

The trial is expected to last over three months and Liverpool is included in the four cities across England, along with Middlesbrough, Worcester and Essex.

The chosen league is the Liverpool Old Boys Amateur League (LOBAL), and as part of the trial, the FA will be tracking and evaluating the impact of the body cameras and if the referees have seen a change in player behaviour.

If successful, the FA may look to roll it out across additional adult grassroots football leagues in England during the 2023-24 season.

Speaking to Daniel McGonigle, 33, who plays for LOBAL team Mersey Harps FC has supported the idea of body cams with players.

Daniel with his wife CJ McArthur (Instagram: McGonigle.d)

He said: “It’s the best decision they have done in a while, and it’s long overdue.

“It’s a small amount of teams and players that give the referees a hard time but there is still players that do it.

“Players and teams can target certain referees, if they make a decision that doesn’t go in their favour.

“But body cams will allow the correct punishment to be given to the culprit.”

But Daniel has also understood that the teams he has played for are also part of the problem.

He said: “Even ourselves can be guilty of it, we can also say and act in a way that we are not supposed to or act in a respectful way.

“Body cams will make everyone accountable.”

Following a study done on the abuse towards grassroots officials has shown that of the 927 respondents, 908 have received verbal abuse from either spectators, players, coaches or managers.

While 293 have experienced physical abuse.

BBC news coverage of the abuse towards grassroots referees

Level five referee Dave Cryer, 42, who officiates in the Lancashire Amateur League and Rochdale Sunday League.

Dave Cryer refereeing a game (Twitter: Dave Cryer @The_Referee)

He has regularly received abuse, but he doesn’t let it effect him.

He said: “Yes, you are verbally abused most weeks.

“If you are strong. You survive.

“Most of it to me is water of the ducks back.

“Some teams are worse than others, some use it as a tactic to get decisions and some are genuinely not nice people and have no remorse.

“I was physically abused once: I was headbutted because I gave someone a second yellow card and sent him off.”

But Dave is still uncertain about the use of body cameras.

He said: “I can see both sides, personally they aren’t for me as I wouldn’t want to draw additional attention to myself.

“If it’s proven to lower abuse levels and making people accountable it can only be a good thing.

“Personally, for me the focus needs to be education and understanding and changing the mindset of people.

“Look at why people treat a football referee differently than a rugby referee or cricket umpire.

“Essentially we are all doing the same job, what’s different in football?”

Chris Sutton speaking about the abuse towards referees

Referee Rob Bland, 23, has been only been an official since September and has been on the receiving end of abuse.

Rob Bland and fiancé Siobhan Doolin ( Instagram: Robbland17)

He said: “Once on the line I have been called the worst linesman the teams ever seen.

“Asked by kids, usually on the losing team, how much am I getting paid.

“Most of the abuse is given by open age players when they are usually getting beat.”

Rob continued with saying he agrees with the body camera as it would make players consider how they act towards a referee.