Last week Noel Draper poured cold water over the F.A’s ‘respect’ campaign –

Following this up he interviewed a referee who is currently being fast-tracked through the levels set for officials and asked for his views on the campaign.

The ref is possibly higher up than you may think and his frank and revealing answers fully illustrate just how farcical the current situation is.

By Noel Draper

How is the respect campaign at your level of refereeing?
“The Respect campaign was a big thing when it started with the FA spending a lot of money on leaflets, banners, adverts on billboards and all sorts of things. Every referee had special meetings with club officials from the grassroots and up so that everyone, including the players, was aware of what they were trying to do.”

Did the campaign make a difference that you could notice?
“At first yes, but if you only hand out a few leaflets and say a few words things are not going to change. The only thing left from the respect campaign now is a badge on my shirt and the handshakes before each match, and even that has been abused recently. It is now no different to before the campaign started if you look at the attitude of the spectators, players and club officials.”

Are you saying that no one pays any attention to the Respect Campaign anymore?
“If someone mentions it now everyone laughs and treats it like a joke. As far as the players go there is no such thing as the Respect Campaign.”

Is there anything you would change about it?
“The Respect Campaign wasn’t a bad idea but you will not stop the players attitude towards officials just by giving them a leaflet. For it to work it needs to start at the top and it will then be followed by the other leagues. What the F.A and Top Select Group officials needed to do was to set up a standard in the Premiership first.”

Is there anything else that would help the campaign work?
“Stopping the media criticisms about referee’s decisions would be a good start. It’s no good if everyone on the pitch has bought in to the campaign if the commentators do their best to go against them. An example I can give is something that happened a few weeks ago. Sian Massey, the first female assistant referee in the Premiership, had made an offside decision which proved to be correct, but the match day commentators started to criticise straight away saying she had made a mistake. This needs to stop for any campaign to work. Do you know the percentage of correct decisions made by referee’s assistants in the Premiership last season? 98%. They know what they are doing but it doesn’t always seem that way according to the media.”

Can football learn from other sports?
“As you mentioned in your article last week a lot can be learned from watching how Ruby Union does things. About two years ago the Referees Association started to work with both the officials of Rugby Union and the MCC to see how they could learn from each other but since then nothing has happened and everyone has forgotten about it.”

So there you go Football Association. One of your own fast tracked referees doesn’t like the way you have conducted this campaign and yet you still bleat on about how many referees you have recruited and how dissent against officials has fallen year on year. Despite your empty rhetoric players still surround the referee, chase after linesmen (yes, most football fans still call them this) and swear loudly for the whole world to hear. Is this what you want Football Association? Is this what you want our beautiful game to be like? Because I don’t and I’m sure that most fans don’t. Sort it out will you please.