Former FIFA referee Matthew Breeze has called on Football Australia to stop treating match officials as an “inconvenience” and give them the same respect that’s awarded to players and coaches. With less than a month to go until the start of the men’s A-League season, Australia’s top referees remain on strike.
The Professional Football Referees Association of the Australia made the decision to strike after the FA’s failure to renew the contract of the A-League referees’ leadership and coaching department led to match officials having “no direction, coaching/instruction, and no fitness coaching” for three months. Industrial action was also taken due to referees being uncontracted and the “unfair” removal of some PFRA members from the A-League men’s and women’s panels “without any due process or warning”. FA has since advertised head of referees and coaching positions, but Breeze – a two-time A-League referee of the year who was on the FIFA list from 2001 to 2012 – said such appointments had been too late. “None of the referee coaches, referee assessors, or administrative positions are even up and running or close to being established and that’s what concerns me as a former referee and a football fan,” said 49-year-old Breeze, now a barrister. “I’ve been around football and refereeing since I was 13 years of age and it’s been a constant problem where referees are to be an inconvenience and the last issue to be resolved and dealt with, as opposed to an integral part of the game that needs development and nurturing. The players get it, the coaches get it, but it just seems to me, from what I understand of it, they’ve forgotten about the referees.”
Breeze said the current absence of proper coaching and training for referees was damaging. “Such coaching and training is critical, and it’s exactly the same as players and coaches,” he said. “There’s a pre-season program that should be put in place all around physical preparation and mental preparation, and updating on the laws of the game, and getting their head around all the new VAR developments. I know the current referees are supremely professional and they’ll get it done, but the last thing they need to be worried about is who’s going to coach them this year, where are they going to train and what’s their employment status.” Due to the PFRA strike, current FFA Cup games and A-League trials are being officiated by non-PFRA members and NPL referees. “Sure, there’s always been talk about the development of younger referees or up and coming referees, but they also need experienced people around,” Breeze said. “If there’s a drama or an injury, or something gets out of hand at Cup game or a trial, they’re going to pointing the finger at a kid who might be refereeing out of his experience zone, and the referees are going to cop it.”
Source: The Australian