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Official shortages results in Saturday games

In short supply: more referees, such as Garic Swainson, are needed to cover the busy fixture list within the Bermuda Football Association schedule (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Saturday fixtures in the Premier Division and First Division will be a regular occurrence this season, primarily to cope with the shortage of matchday referees.

As a result matches have been scheduled on Saturdays throughout the season, including two First Division matches at Wellington Oval and Malabar Field as well as a Premier Division encounter between Boulevard and PHC at Goose Gosling Field tomorrow.

That scenario will continue throughout the season with a Premier Division match even scheduled for a Monday evening on January 6 when the campaign resumes from the Christmas break.

The only time all five Premier and five First Division matches will be played on the same Sunday is the final round of matches on March 22.

“The Saturday games do help us a lot, because to have five Premier and five First Division matches on a Sunday, especially when the venues are spread out,” said Crenstant Williams, chairman of the Bermuda Football Association’s referees committee.

Assistant referees, in particular are often assigned a First Division match at one ground and then have to travel to another ground in time to do a Premier Division match.

“It makes it difficult when you have somebody at Garrison Field then trying to get back to Bernard Park,” Williams added. “So while the Saturday games are not exactly ideal, it does give the referees a chance to recover. “On top of that you have night games which they are putting in place, plus there is an Expansion League which is normally on Tuesdays to Thursdays.

“Then the referees train on Tuesdays and Thursdays so they don’t really get a chance to take a break.

“I stressed to the competitions committee that if you can have more Saturday matches it does give people a chance to rest. “This year I’ve lost four officials, though on the refs course we just had we did get five youngsters between the ages of 14 and 17 who will be doing First Division matches on the line.”

Williams added: “We do have some of our younger assistant referees doing Premier and First Division lines who are ready to step up and start doing First Division ‘middle’. Our referee pool is ageing and so now we have to start using our youngsters.”

A shortage of referees has been an issue over the years, as some officials gave up the whistle and flag because of verbal abuse from fans.

“Young people are going to make mistakes because everybody does,” Williams said.

“We’re trying to recruit as many people as possible and are taking zero tolerance on abuse towards officials.

“We managed to get another young lady on board. She has never officiated or played football, but heard about it, got inspired and wants to go on a Fifa list, so I welcomed her with open arms.”

Williams believes another initiative could be temporary officials coming from overseas to assist during the season.

“I have a gentleman who looked on the website and wants to come here to officiate but, of course, there is the red tape with work permits.

“We’re trying to see if we can do a referee exchange programme, possibly from the USL or Canada.

“In their off-season they would come here and during our off-season in the summer, we could send some of our officials.”

Williams said the ideal situation would be to have ten referees and 20 assistants available every Sunday to cover the ten Premier and First Division matches.

“We have 25 to 30 people and the majority of them are assistant referees and a lot of those are youngsters,” he revealed.

“I’m very thankful to the competitions committee who did their best to try to schedule double-header matches, which means I can keep two assistant referees and just change the referees which makes it easier sometimes.”

n North Village, the last Premier Division team to play a match this season, will begin their campaign on Sunday when they host Dandy Town at Bernard Park.

Southampton Rangers play Devonshire Cougars at Southampton Oval while Robin Hood take on Somerset Trojans at Goose Gosling Field and X-Roads welcome Somerset Eagles to Garrison Field.

In the First Division, Hamilton Parish play Flanagan’s Onions at Wellington Oval and Ireland Rangers meet Wolves in the Saturday matches at 3pm.

On Sunday, Vasco meet Devonshire Colts at Bernard Park and St David’s play St George’s in a match that has been switched from St David’s to Wellington Oval.