Marked by the two recent attacks on October 22 and November 12, incidents against football referees are increasing. 20% drop in licensed referees in the Center region between the end of last season and the start of the 2022-2023 season.
The Centre-Val de Loire league has decided to act. All meetings for the weekend of November 26 and 27 have been postponed. Via a new press release from the league on November 22, the National 3 championship, not planned in the movement at the start, also saw all its meetings reported.
The reason: violence in football is only increasing, especially against referees. In less than a month, in the Center-Val de Loire region alone, two referees were attacked during two different matches, on October 22 and November 12.
Younes Mouarraf, referee of the match between Le Blanc and Fussy in Regional 2 on November 12, was violently struck twice in the face following his decision to expel a player. The meeting was interrupted and he was taken to hospital. “I’m here to arbitrate and have a good time with all the players“, he testifies at the microphone of France 3. “It’s a passion, I don’t want to endanger my family and myself”.
“Awareness of refereeing is done in the young categories. We will have to do it in seniors because the players do not understand the rules or respect for the referee” for his part lamented Antonio Teixeira, the president of the Centre-Val de Loire league, on France 3.
For several seasons, fewer and fewer volunteers have tried the adventure of the refereeing corps. Thus, between the end of the 2021-2022 season and the start of the 2022-2023 season, “We lost almost 20% of our referees in the Center League”according to Laurent Czwojdzinski, president of the National Union of French Arbitrators (UNAF) in Loir-et-Cher and member of the national steering committee of the UNAF.
Incidents like this are only increasing, and referee careers are getting shorter. Laurent Czwojdzinski calls for a questioning of all players in football, including the institution. The report of the matches of the weekend of November 26 and 27 does not change anything for the refereeing corps: “This report does not solve the problem, it is simply moved. At no time is there an action and an impact linked to the function of the referee”.
Postponed matches are postponed to the following weekend. “Perhaps we had to push a little further, that is to say completely cancel this day, too bad for the clubs”, reacts Raphaël Blin, the president of UNAF 36, in Indre. Nevertheless, he evokes a good deed on the part of the league: “I’ve been in the world of football for 35 years, it’s the first time they’ve made a decision like this. It’s good but I don’t think it will help things.”
Raphael Blin wonders about this decision which, of course, marks a general fed up but can also be prompted by the League’s fear of seeing the UNAF start a strike movement. How would games go without referees?
A strike took place three years ago in the Loir-et-Cher, recalls Laurent Czwojdzinski. “By mutual agreement with the Loir-et-Cher district, we had established a full day without referees. The goal was to put volunteers, club leaders in the place of the referee”.
“To make people aware that the role of the referee is very complicated and that it is not given to everyone. To be able to accept a person, you must already understand how it works.”Laurent Czwojdzinski, member of the national steering committee of UNAF
He continues on the role of the referee, as much decried by the spectators as by the players. “You have to live the role of a referee so that people understand and feel the role of the referee.” The feedback was generally positive. The clubs had been made to face up to their responsibilities.
“There were no more physical attacks than normal on the national level” since the white covid season, notes Laurent Czwojdzinski. On the other hand, there is a huge increase in incivility. Insults, threats, violence between players continue to increase.
Another actor in this scourge of violence, the spectators. “Unfortunately, the environmental empire” explains Laurent Czwojdzinski, who deplores the phenomenon of “pseudo-spectators”. The perpetrators of violence can be people who are not even interested in the game.
“It’s a phenomenon that we see more and more in our categories of young referees. During u11, u13 competitions, incivility does not come from children but from parents and accompanying persons”. Some support movements have appeared, especially on social networks. Nevertheless, these movements do not prevent incivilities, now present in all age categories of French football, from youth categories to seniors.
“If we are not able to educate our children and unfortunately our parents, we end up with incivilities like that”Laurent Czwojdzinski, member of the national steering committee of UNAF
Given the sharp increase in these incidents, there are less and less referees. Previously, some referees could make long careers of twenty years for fun. “Today, it is a rare commodity. The lifespan of a referee, if you can call it that, if it’s 5.6 years it’s the end of the world“, again according to the president of UNAF 41. Being a referee is not given to everyone.
“Someone who attacks a referee should no longer be able to play”, judge Laurent Czwojdzinsk. He pursues “It’s an entire institution that must question itself”. The disciplinary scale was toughened two years ago, unfortunately it is not enough to stop this violence. “The disciplinary scale for arbitration seems too light to us. The clubs are unable to clean up internally”insists Laurent Czwojdzinsk.
These events are not only localized in the lowest divisions. The last two incidents to date occurred during Regional 2 matches. In the long term, this deleterious climate is likely to weigh heavily on the vocations of potential future referees.