A severe lack of referees to mediate amateur football games is now becoming untenable, with volunteers and onlookers frequently called in to replace match referees. So bad is the problem that French-speaking deputies are now calling for an expenses system to ensure the availability of qualified referees, Belgian newspaper La Libre Belgique reports.
Phillipe Dodrimont, deputy to the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and president of an amateur division three football club says that the shortage of referees is causing significant disruption to amateur football in the region. Providing incentives to referees may help end the shortage and decrease reliance on volunteers.
“We have to make the job more attractive by working on the expenses of referees. Today, there is an emergency, we face a shortage every weekend,” the deputy said. The politician proposes creating a system of partial or full reimbursement for the expenses incurred by referees.
“For a club to function well and progress in terms of sporting and social performance, it must be able to count on all the players of the game… Without a referee, this is no competition and ultimately, no sport!,” Dodrimont underlined.
The shortage of referees is already being felt across Brussels and Wallonia, both in football and other sports. Dodrimont, who also heads an amateur club in Liège, states that the problem is both widespread and critical.
“Every weekend, they are forced to call on volunteers, parents, staff members to ask them to referee, otherwise the matches are cancelled. I am very worried, especially for the small amateur clubs. At the level of the championships, the P3 and P4 matches are strongly impacted,” he said.
Jean-Noël Jacob, President of the Regional Bureau of Arbitration (BRA) of Liège, recently admitted that the BRA had no choice but to leave two complete P4 matches without an appointed referee.
Dodrimont says that there are several factor putting referees off from entering the sport. “The aggressive behaviour of some people around football pitches deters young people from entering the profession. In this respect, clubs must be stringent in punishing troublemakers,” the deputy said.
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Besides poor pitch-side behaviour, there is also the problem of remuneration. A referee typically earns €40-50 for two or three hours of service, but travel expenses and rural or remote locations can heavily eat into this final pay check.
The Reformist Movement (MR) deputy wants to increase the attractiveness of the position by allowing for referees to partially or fully claim back their expenses.
“I am convinced that this will be a determining factor in boosting the number of candidates. It is a decision that will have to be taken at the federal level. Without a strong proposal, we clearly risk the disappearance of certain championship series,” the deputy concluded.