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Interview: Alan Burnett, grassroots referee

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Following the recent YFS TV Live Debate Show on grassroots refereeing in Scotland, we caught up with Alan Burnett. We asked the Category 5 member of the Glasgow Referees Association about all things refereeing. Read the interview below...
Tell us about your experiences with negative touchline behaviour
Negative behaviour on the touchline is a regular occurance. Referees are the usually targets but not always the sole person on the receiving end. It’s said to be a referee you need to have thick skin and that is certainly the case when you hear some of the shouts from the touchlines, which is just abuse sometimes for the sake of it.
What should a club's parental code of conduct include and what sanctions should there be for breaking it?
Parents when signing their son/daughter to a team should also have a form to sign, insisting their behaviour at the side of the park should be to encourage the players, be positive and allow the coaches to do their job, along with the referee as well. Any parent that steps out of line should firstly be giving a verbal warning one on one from the coaching staff. If it continues then they would be banned from being on the touchline and only able to sit in their car if dropping their child off. If they simply ignore and continue then them and their child are then asked to leave the club.
Should referees be required to provide more post-match analysis on the behaviour of a touchline, rather than just filing a report if they break the rules? (i.e. rewarding positive sportsmanship)
I would disagree with a referee being asked to add anything there and then, especially if the behaviour hasnt been great. However, I would agree that if a referee feels it’s worth noting down a positive thing from the game, such as respectful behaviour or such is that its beyond being a good sportsman, then they should be able to add it to any report, email or team line if there is a section for notes on there.
Tell us about your experiences with Scottish grassroots referees.
My own experience as a grassroots referee is more positive than negative, especially from personal point of view. It has given me more confidence, given me the opportunity to be able to manage difficult situations that other people don’t usually find themselves in and manage my time more with sending in team lines and misconduct forms. Doing these reports and emails has certainly improved my own literacy skills, having not left with a higher from school. Meeting new people has been a massive thing as well and made lasting friendships over the years of being involved. There is a phrase we use, ‘the referee family’, which it really is. The friendship and support you get, especially when you’re on your own for 90% of the time to do games, is invaluable.
What should a club/players/coaches be able to expect from their matchday referee?
Professionalism from the start. Showing up early, at least 40 minutes before kick-off. Dressed smart in either a shirt and tie, suit or even a presentation tracksuit that still enables you to be looking the part. Speaking to players and coaches in a courteous manner. To apply the laws of the game at all times to the best of their ability and knowledge. Get the big game changing decisions correct (i.e penalty decisions and sending offs). Minor errors are going to occu and to therefore move on and focus on the game.
In the USA, young players at the age of 14 are required to take a basic refereeing test. Those who pass are then required to referee 10 soccer sevens games, before they become qualified for paid work. This generates more young referees and makes it more affordable for Under 12 teams to have proper match officials in their transitional season. Would this work in Scotland?
Yes it would be a great idea. And it then allows the players to see it from a referee’s point of view and give back something to the younger players who are playing 7 a sides and getting ready for 11 a side football. It also means if we can get people interested in refereeing at a young age that we will generate a larger number of long term participation at grassroots and then onto the top leagues.
Should there be more education for players, coaches and clubs about the laws of the game?
Yes there should be. Referees participating in the league should be invited to a league meeting and given the chance to explain the rules and any changes. And to inform them what is expected from the referees from Hampden.
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