The domestic game continues to have a massive shortage of Black and Asian referees with none in the top two divisions and just a handful in the lower leagues
English football’s Black referees have lashed out at plans to create a raft of new roles for which non-white officials have no chance of successfully applying.
The domestic game continues to have a massive shortage of Black and Asian referees with none in the top two divisions and just a handful in the lower leagues.
Last week the FA’s refereeing department sent out a tweet warning potential applicants they had until midnight to apply for the role as Technical and Development Officer.
“If you’re a great team worker and have a passion for developing referees and education, we’d love to hear from you.” It added.
But Black officials reacted with shock, insisting they’d had no knowledge that the role was available. As a result, the FA Refereeing department extended the application period.
In an open letter to the Professional Game and Match Officials Limited, which deals with the appointment of referees, the Black and Minority Ethnic Support Referee Support Group has expressed its anger at the situation.
“In our opinion, it is completely unacceptable that the early job specification for roles to help activate the Elite Referee Development Programme (ERDP) strategy fails to tackle discrimination and exclusion practices that have prevented credible applications from candidates of ethnic origin (people of colour).
“We believe that unless a positive action approach is introduced, this will remain a continued barrier to achieving the set goals of more diversity and inclusion in the future of refereeing.
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“The elite refereeing team has been criticised for under-representation of racial and ethnic minorities. At elite levels (Select Group 1 & 2 – top two divisions of the English Game), there are currently no referees of colour from an ethnic origin background.
“There are only three other referees of colour in the subsequent four divisions of the English game. This clearly indicates a level of crisis underpinned by structural discrimination within the refereeing and puts at risk the equal inclusion of racial and ethnic minority referees in the future of the sport.”
There also remains deep frustration that, despite a commitment from the PGMOL to increase opportunities for Black referees, job specifications are written in such a way as to minimise applicants from under-represented communities.
Many of the roles advertised demand refereeing experience that Black officials do not have while white officials such as Tony Harrington, Stuart Attwell and Jarrod Gillett have been fast-tracked into the system.
The BAME Referee Support Group added: “The PGMOL, under the sponsorship of the FA, EFL and the Premier League are now creating several working groups to carve out the roadmap for creating the referee journey for the future to drive improved performance, inclusive working environment, and ethnically diverse workforce.
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“Whilst we welcome the objectives and ambitions of ERDP, we are very concerned with the omission of ethnic and minority representation in several of the working group pathways.
“With these omissions and early recruitment practices, the ERDP has sent the wrong message to current and future referees from racially diverse and ethnic, minority backgrounds that neither they, nor their inputs / concerns are priority for key areas of ERDP.”
The FA insisted the organisation uses recruitment software with an anonymous diversity monitoring tool in place that helps to report live on the diversity of applicants during this process to ensure appropriate representation at each stage.
A spokesman added: “We are wholly committed to the recruitment, retention, support and development of referees from all backgrounds, regardless of location and whether they wish to progress through the pyramid or remain active at lower levels where they make a crucial contribution to our game.”