Referee shortage getting desperate
Crenstant Williams hopes that new technology will help combat the chronic shortage of referees on the Island.
Williams, the chairman of the referees committee at the Bermuda Football Association, said the number of officials in Bermuda was worryingly low, and the abuse referees and assistant referees received on match days was not helping matters.
“It's not desperate, but pretty close,” he said.
The hope is that the arrival of some electronic flags and headsets will make life easier for referees, and their assistants, thereby encouraging more people to become involved in the game.
“We have about nineteen officials and had to call two people out of retirement to come back and assist us,” Williams said. “People's work schedules are impacting us, because the majority of our referees are police officers who work shifts.
“For the Christmas period we're going to be down by five people, which means some games are only going to have two officials, and clubs having to provide the assistant referee.”
Recently one official from a First Division game in St David's had to make his way to St John's Field to assist in the Premier Division game between Dandy Town and Boulevard.
“The biggest issue we have is players and fans are verbally abusing referees, and that's why a lot of people are not willing to become a referee or assistant referee, because they don't want to suffer the abuse,” Williams said. “That's the biggest stumbling block.
“I've made an appeal to the clubs at every congress, and to date I have not had any assistant referees come forward. The abuse needs to stop, that's where we are losing officials.”
Martin Wyre, the Island's top referee, quit last season after being racially abused by a fan during a Premier Division game at Goose Gosling Field between Flanagan's Onions and PHC. Wyre had been verbally abused and quit the season before, only to return at the behest of his colleagues.
Lyndon Raynor and his two assistants, Stephen Allen and Antoine Augustus, tried out the equipment on Sunday during the Premier Division match at Wellington Oval between Hamilton Parish and Dandy Town, after the Bermuda Referees Association took possession of new headsets and flags.
“It's primarily in use in Premier Division and cup games and is going to be expanded,” said Raynor who had some challenges with the earpiece because of the rain. “It [the ear piece] kept falling out as I didn't have any tape.
“It's very useful as you can have a conversation with the refereeing team. I didn't use it after the first half, but even if the referee doesn't wish to use theirs, then the two assistant referees can still use them to communicate with each other.
“It should cut down on the delay in communicating with the referee.”
Each flag has a button which the assistant can press to get the referee's attention as the buzzer on his arm goes off. He can then communicate with the assistant through the ear piece.
One emits a short beep and the other two beeps so the referee knows which linesman is trying to get his attention. Officials have also been wearing new uniforms.
“It's just another tool in the management of games for the officials,” Raynor said. “In the professional game it has become the expectation, not the exception.
“We still have some ways to go as ideally our games should be videotaped.”
Goalline technology was introduced this season in the English Premier League to assist the officials with close decisions, but that technology isn't likely to happen in Bermuda any time soon.
“That comes with a lot of money and investment,” Raynor said.
Williams added: “The communication devices make it easier for the referee and assistant referees to communicate with each other and not have to second guess over an offside or handball and it saves a lot of time.
“They used the gear at the [Dudley Eve Trophy] semi-finals and finals, and now they want to use them for all Premier Division games.
“We're trying to raise the standard here in Bermuda and there is no reason why what you see on TV we can't implement here in Bermuda.”