The Barbados Football Association is sending out a referees SOS.
And as the BFA’s referees’ manager Mark “Bob” Forde highlighted the growing concern, he told Barbados TODAY the officials workload had increased particularly this year because of the introduction of the reserve league being played on Fridays.
“The reserve league now plays on Friday, so that day has now become one of our more active days. We end up playing premier league reserve which is five, first division reserve which is six and division two reserves which is four, which are fifteen additional matches in total on Fridays. So the workload has increased in terms of the days that officials referee, especially Friday which was once an off-day for the referees.
“Our challenge is that we have division one games which are refereed by senior officials and for all the division one matches we provide officials and these are six matches, so it means we have 18 officials. And sometimes we have division one matches playing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Then we have the premier league which plays on Sundays, Thursdays and Tuesdays and because these referees are involved in both, you can see where they would be refereeing sometimes one or two or three or four games a week which we do not want. But the problem is that we do not have enough referees,” Forde said.
He added that in addition to premier league and division one games being played, the referees also had to referee youth, schools and masters football which were being played at the moment.
Forde, who took up the post as head of the referees’ body two years ago, said that instead of not sending a referee to a match because they wanted to give the referee rest, they would rather give the referee an additional game to ensure the game had a referee to avoid situations that resulted in violence because of the official’s absence.
“We only have 45 to 58 active referees this year and these persons have to do thousands of matches a year and there is no getting away from it. I have said to the referee department at the BFA that I am concerned because the referees are not getting good rest and some of them are going to some games tired and if you are tired your concentration level would not be that high as when you would have been rested which can cause mistakes on the job.”
Forde, a long-serving FIFA referee, said one of the suggestions the BFA came up with was to conduct a referee recruitment course which would encourage more individuals to get involved in refereeing.
He noted that previously clubs were able to enter teams in all three forms of competition, inclusive of the premier league, division two and division three, which allowed clubs to have at least three teams in a season which the BFA association felt defeated the purpose.
“We felt that a team should only be playing in one division but what we wanted to do was to allow teams to have the number of players that would still be able to play for the main team, like for instance if you have a division two team, players would still be able to play for the main division two team but if they have a spillover of players, these players can play in a league among themselves and then the coaches can use that reserve league to bring on players who may be performing well in the reserve league.
“And also if players become injured coaches can pull players from the reserve league to replace the players in the main league and we felt that this was a better way to ensure that we improve the standard of football and add some credibility to the division. By doing that we were able to reduce the number of teams but people feel we have increased the number of teams. Before you used to have four zones in division two but now that we have the reserve league we are now down to three zones,” Forde explained.
Forde revealed the BFA would be holding a referees course in July to attract individuals to refereeing which could turn into a potential career.
“We are targeting about 20 to 30 recruits and we will be putting it into the media, schools and the police force in order to get young individuals to man the sport because we seriously need to increase the number of referees we have to match the number of matches we are now called upon to officiate,” he said.