The Barbados Football Association (BFA) has one of the best referee programs in the Caribbean and the local governing body is on a recruitment drive to increase its membership, says referees manager Mark “Bob” Forde.
Currently, Barbados boasts a total of 148 referees with only 70 currently active, and Forde said the BFA has set a target to attract 120 active referees between the ages of 16 and 30.
The association, led by president Randy Harris, recently partnered with the Emmerson Boyce Foundation and is expected to launch a schools referee recruitment program next year called Play On Ref.
“If I have 120 active referees, it gives me the opportunity that probably one day we would be able to provide three officials for all three divisions outside of the premier league,” Forde said.
“Right now, we provide four officials for the Premier League and three officials for all Division One. I want to get where we would be also providing three officials for each Division Two and Three games.
“For us to do that we have to get at least 120 official referees. Right now we are 50 to 60 short of that target.
“Over the next two years, I am hoping that we will be able to reach our target and get those 120 referees well qualified and trained to man all the matches that we have in Barbados.”
He continued: “There is a lot of football played in Barbados and we also have to provide referees for schools, masters, commercial football, so there are a lot of football matches that we do have to send our referees to.
“And our referees are an aging bunch so I need to attract some young people from the University of the West Indies, Barbados Community College, young police officers, prison officers and Barbados Defence Force personnel.”
To entice younger talent, the age range has been dropped from 14 to 12 as Play On Ref takes its search within primary schools.
The next referee recruitment course is scheduled for next February and will likely be facilitated via Zoom online technology. From last month’s program, 30 participated with 13 writing the final examination and achieving passes.
“We are starting the girls from 12 years instead of 14-years-old, so we are bringing it down because FIFA is telling us we must get younger,” Forde explained.
“When they are younger they can still play and referee. So, they can play school football, youth football and still referee the little football we have on Saturdays.
“We have now increased by 13 so we should be about 83. How many of them want to be active? I would know that when we start with them in youth football and see how many of them like it. That is where we view some of the referees after the test.
“When we put them in the practical aspect of it, some of them would say they don’t like it while others say they love it and would go on to become referees.”
The last full-fledged referees were Adrian Skeete who retired in 2017 and Gillian Martindale who hung up her boots most recently after a decade of service.
Forde is, however, elated that another Barbadian female referee, Tonia Deane, is on the rise and is one of two referees assistants who were ones for the future.
Deane has been shortlisted as one of the candidates for the FIFA 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia.
“I was very pleased when I received the news that she was shortlisted because she would be the first referee from Barbados that have been shortlisted to a senior world cup in either men or women,” Forde said.
“If she is selected she will be making major history and I hope she will be selected. It is going to be very difficult.
“We have to put in a lot of work with her over the next two years to ensure she is well prepared.”