Seasoned referees point to verbal abuse as main deterrent to potential recruits

Vanroy Burnes.
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By Neto Baptiste

Two former football referees, Ivor Davis and Vanroy Burnes, believe that the customary verbal abuse that comes along with being a match official is one of the main deterrents for potential members.

In a recent interview Burnes, who has been a referee for 42 years, said that even when off the pitch, referees are subjected to verbal abuse, and so must be tough mentally if they are to survive.

“You may be walking down High Street or going up Market Street with your madam, and the kind of things you hear from players about the referee … there are a lot of people who can’t take that. It is not nice and so they would want to stay far and the few [players] that came in after football, they didn’t stay long because they recognised what it was then and what it is now, so they would never want to get in that scenario where they are being called all kind of names — they know where you were born and how you were [conceived] and all kind of things,” he said.

Burnes, who also served as president of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Referees Association (ABFRA), also criticised the latest generation of officials, accusing them of not dedicating the time and effort required to be the best they can be at their craft.

“The referees of today, they are not committed and dedicated to the craft; this is the key factor and in anything that you do, your ultimate objective is to learn the rules and the laws of the game because that is paramount to the development of the game. Some of our referees are not interested in learning the laws of the game, but they just come to ensure that a little stipend is there at the end of the match and it is taking away from the whole concept of the game,” the veteran official said.

Davis, who served as president of the football referees association for 31 consecutive years, said he developed a level of mental fitness that allowed him to successfully weather the verbal abuse.

“My philosophy, provided I know I am doing the right thing, is that you can say what you like, but I know I am doing the right thing and really, I didn’t have much of that because players and spectators seemed to have had faith in me so it was very seldom I got any real criticism. My thing was to administer the game, not to watch the players, and if you start thinking about the game you will forget about the laws,” he said. 

Davis also served as a FIFA referee assessor and was also instrumental in the introduction of coloured uniforms for referees here in Antigua. 

Ivor Davis.
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