Give a little whistle and keep the amateur game thriving

THE need for more football referees in the Borders was highlighted recently when, for the third time this season, Selkirk Victoria were forced to postpone a match.

High-flying Vics were all set to play Winton in a Border Amateur League (BAL) B Division fixture – but the game was called off due to the lack of an official.

Raymond Hume, chairman of the SFA’s Borders referees’ section, is urging more people to pick up a whistle before the current shortage has an adverse affect on the whole structure of the now-thriving BAL.

He told TheSouthern: “In the short term a shortage will mostly affect the league secretary as games have to be called off and rearranged. With 36 teams across the three BAL divisions, that is no easy task at the best of times and there are numerous cup competitions to take into consideration also.

“The long-term affect of a referee shortage, however, would mean possibly having to reduce the number of teams playing in the divisions which, in time, will affect all levels of the game.”

Currently there are 19 active BAL referees for 18 fixtures per week and Hume, 44, is looking to bump the number up to anywhere between 25-30 to allow for shift workers, holidays and injuries.

With this in mind the Galashiels whistler is looking for referees to sign up for a course in Selkirk at the end of the month.

He added: “It would be nice to get some younger referees coming through as there is potentially a career to be had. We would also like to see more female refs as there is a passage to go on to officiate senior women’s’ football – but, in general, anybody who wants to stay in the game, maybe after a playing career, would be more than welcome.”

Selkirk Victoria centre half Ryan Pritchard is backing the appeal.

He told us: “It’s a thankless task for the league secretary trying to arrange fixtures around referee availability.

“It’s also frustrating having games called off for referee shortages in the summer because we’ll now be due the usual winter call-offs due to bad weather. For the last game we had cancelled it was sunny and perfect for football.”

Hume himself has been the man in the middle for the last 13 years and has witnessed many changes in the post.

“It’s mostly been positive,” he told us. “There are more younger referees coming through and technology is improving all the time.

“I enjoy reffing because it was one way of staying involved in football after I stopped playing. Also, I have been fortunate in the fact that I have reffed at a higher level than I would ever have played.

“I have officiated at two national finals, my first being an under-14 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden in 2001 and, more recently, the Scottish Amateur Cup Final this year.

“I have met a lot of new friends through reffing and, most likely, a few enemies. It also keeps me fit and active.”

And as for the qualities needed for the job, Hume explained: “They need to be enthusiastic, fit, dedicated, have good communication skills and, most importantly, have a good secretary (so my wife says).”

There is a downside, however. Hume admitted that abuse towards referees has became more of a problem.

“It is getting increasingly difficult to recruit new refs due to the continued abuse that comes from players, coaches and spectators,” he added.

“They seem to forget that if the referee wasn’t there they wouldn’t have a game. Fortunately, though, it’s not as big a problem in the Borders as it is in other areas, and mostly it’s just enthusiastic banter from the sidelines.”

The Scottish Football Association refereeing course begins on October 28 at Yarrow Park. The programme is not a physical course and concentrates on learning the laws of the game, with an exam at the end. It is free of charge and runs from 10am-4pm each Sunday for five weeks.

For further information, contact Raymond Hume on 07921 332832.