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England's grassroots referees 'safer, more confident' with body cameras

Referees in grassroots leagues in England feel more confident and "safer" when wearing body cameras whilst officiating, the Football Association's head of refereeing said amid a trial into the efficacy of the technology.

In February, the FA announced it will trial body cameras on grassroots referees in a bid to ascertain whether the technology could help "improve participant behaviour and respect towards referees".

Paul Field, president of England's Referees' Association, in February said that the verbal and physical abuse of grassroots referees in the country is getting so bad that lives are at risk.

A BBC questionnaire responded to by more than 900 amateur referees revealed worrying levels of abuse and intimidation with multiple cases of death threats being made.

Last year the FA banned 380 players and coaches for attacking or threatening referees and match officials.

"The early signs are positive, the referees feel more confident, reassured, protected, safer," Daniel Meeson, the FA's head of refereeing, told the BBC.

"Referees tell us some players have taken a second glance, seen the bodycam, and made a joke like, 'Oh I'd better not argue with you ref, I've seen the bodycam'."

The cameras being used in the trial do not record for the entire duration of the match, but have a 30-second capture that can be triggered by referees. The FA have said that no referees have felt the need to activate the body cameras yet.

"It's a positive start - no activations - so in my mind it looks like the deployment of these devices is acting ultimately in the way we want them to, which is that deterrent," Meeson said.

"Better to prevent misconduct and prevent poor participant behaviour than to have to cure it."

The bodycam trial began with four adult grassroots football leagues in Middlesbrough, before progressing to three other leagues.

In February, the FA said around 100 referees would be provided with the body camera equipment, which is produced by Reveal Media.

"My view on the cameras is that it's there as a deterrent, and that's definitely what I have found it to be doing so far," referee Sophie Wood told ITV.

"It's then obviously the safety element – if you do feel your safety is in danger, then that's when you're going to activate the camera. I'm seeing a lot of much friendlier players, day to day!"

If the trial is successful, the FA have said they will look into implementing the technology "across additional adult grassroots football leagues in England during the 2023-24 season".

Source: Reuters


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