FROM THE MIDDLE: By Dick Sawdon-Smith
In recent weeks, national newspapers have reported, one might say applauded, two ‘firsts’ in English football.
One is that of Rebecca Welch is appointed as the first woman to referee a Premier League game.
The other is not so much a first as a ‘first since’.
This is the appointment of Sam Allison, as the first Premier League referee to be a person of colour since Uriah Rennie 15 years ago.
This brings forward the question ‘why are there so few black referees?’
Some might add this is surprising, since footballers, particularly in the Premier League, come from diverse backgrounds.
That is not really a fair comparison, as many Premier League players come from abroad.
However, only 8% of referees in this country are black or Asian and only 3% are in professional football.
Some have expressed the hope that Sam Allison will be a role model – but why wasn’t Uriah Rennie?
Is there some block on black referees?
I don’t believe there is any such problem, it’s just that young black footballers or football fans don’t come forward to become referees. During my 18 years as a Referee Tutor, with three courses a year each with 24 trainees, I can’t recall any black or Asian trainees, who would have been as welcome as anyone.
I watched a podcast recently with four black referees, three men and one woman, who all agreed that they enjoyed refereeing and would recommend it.
I used to work for an outdoor company, selling clothing for walking, and equipment for other outdoor activities, but seldom did we see a black person in our shops. Was it that they don’t like the outdoors?
In recent years a black lady who does enjoy it, started her own walking club, limited to black women only. It has been very successful, so is this the way to go?
Perhaps courses should be run for ethnic minorities only?
Berks & Bucks FA have, in the past year, run separate courses for females, adults, and what they call ‘Historically Under-Represented Ethnic Communities, HUEC, resulting in 600 new trainee referees.
If you would like to become a referee, whatever your colour, class or creed as we used to say in the Scouts, Berks and Bucks FA will be restarting their courses in late January- early February.
Go to their website and click on ‘Expression of interest’.
Just remember a thought from one of the podcast referees: ‘there is no barrier except yourself’.