Referees in grassroots leagues in England are feeling increasingly more secure while officiating with body cameras due to a trial initiative launched by the Football Association. The initiative aims to tackle poorer behaviour towards referees in a bid to create a safer environment on the pitch.
Research conducted by the BBC among 900 amateur referees has revealed worrying levels of abuse and intimidation and multiple cases of death threats being made. To tackle this growing problem the FA have banned 380 players and coaches for attacking or threatening referees and match officials.
Head of refereeing for the FA, Daniel Meeson, has shared the early signs of the trial are positive, the referees feel more confident, reassured, protected, and safer with the use of the body cameras. Referees have reported that some players reacted to the body cameras by making jokes such as “Oh, I’d better not argue with you ref, I’ve seen the bodycamera.”
The bodycam trial began with four adult grassroots football leagues in Middlesbrough, before progressing to three other leagues. Around 100 referees will be provided with body camera equipment produced by Reveal Media. Referee Sophie Wood commented on its perceived effectiveness, sharing “It’s there as a deterrent, and that’s definitely what I have found it to be doing so far. I’m seeing a lot of much friendlier players, day to day!”
The body cameras do not record for the entire duration of the match, but have a 30-second capture that can be triggered by referees. So far, no referees have felt the need to activate the body cameras during the trial. Should the trial be successful, the FA plans to implement the technology into more adult grassroots football leagues in England over the 2023-24 season.
Reveal Media are a leading manufacturer of body-worn cameras and software solutions for law enforcement, security services and select commercial markets. The company, specialising in CCTV and associated software solutions, have become renowned for their implementation of body cameras for law enforcement across the world. They currently employ over 50 staff and have headquarters in the UK and New Zealand.
Paul Field is the President of England’s Referees’ Association and was the one who initially expressed concern over the physical and verbal abuse of referees. Field has called out the rising levels of attacks against referees and how they are putting lives at risk. His passion to safeguard the integrity of football officiating has inspired the FA to launch their body camera initiative.