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Sport at all levels need motivated and skilled match officials and these people require respect from the players they officiate and their coaches and parents.

There are a large number of recruitment initiatives run by governing bodies and others with a strong focus on attracting a younger and more diverse section of society into officiating.

Referee and match official training have never been more rigorous, involving constant assessment. Successful candidates progress through the ranks and often there is considerable mentoring support available.

But, many sports bodies report considerable problems with attracting and retaining officials despite their valiant efforts to reduce the often noticeable referee dropout rate.

Across there are many signs that respect for our officials is too often lacking and that, it has been claimed, that the authorities do not always take reports of abuse of officials seriously enough. That lack of support has been quoted as one reason for the referee dropout.

One example is that more than half of cricket umpires say they have been a victim of verbal abuse, according to research undertaken by The University of Portsmouth.

You can wonder why someone wants to carry out a task when you only get noticed when you make an error in the eyes of the, sometimes biased players and fans.

At the same time, a large number of officials say refereeing is an enormous physical and mental challenge; there is no comfort zone out there on the pitch, and for them that is exciting. They say that officiating improves self-confidence and time- and man-management.

There are indeed various initiatives designed to improve the atmosphere surrounding football matches, the English FA’s Respect programme aims to educate parents and coaches on their roles in creating a fun, safe and inclusive environment for players. Also, we are seeing an extension of that programme with the increasing number of Respect leagues where there is a focus on enjoyment, respect and development.

This conference will feature real stories and successes to be told, lessons to be learnt, ideas and experiences to be shared

This event focuses on these issues, highlight best practice and provide thoughts, tools and to-dos, share experiences and ideas on how we can ensure that we have motivated and qualified officiating workforce for the future

The conference will cover issues such as:

• How do we attract and retain a younger and more diverse section of society into officiating

• What can different sports learn from each other in terms of training and supporting officials

• How can we develop an environment where there is stronger respect for ‘grassroots’ officials

• Is there scope for developing some innovative recruitment methods to attract officials from outside the sport

• How can we develop digital tools helping to improve training and the way we engage with officials

• How can we develop a stronger team spirit for people who often carry out their tasks in isolation

• How can we improve the way we engage with and motivate officials

This conference is aimed at Referee Development Officers and others involved with developing the officiating workforce across governing bodies of sport, county associations and other sports organisations.

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