Far North Queensland Football (FNQF) is taking positive steps to significantly improve depth in the ranks of referees officiating in local matches.
Concerned that age is starting to catch up on a number of senior match officials in the far north competitions, FNQ general manager Matt Kelso said it is imperative to take action now to ensure the stocks of referees are strong going forward.
To this end FNQF, in conjunction with Football Queensland, is launching a campaign to target potential future referees through high schools, universities and TAFE.
There are 57 referees registered with FNQF, including 39 junior referees and 18 senior referees.
Kelso said there are not any issues with the number of junior referees available in an area that boasts 3,770 registered players (1,200 seniors) covering 11 senior clubs and 24 junior clubs.
“It is just that four of our senior men will be 60 years of age or older by the end of the year,” Kelso said.
“As well, six of our seniors are older than 50, three are in their 40s and only five are in their 20s.
“While these refs are doing a great job, at some point they’re going to come to the end of their careers and we have to fill that void and start recruiting now.”
Two senior females and nine junior females are also on the match officials’ lists up north.
“Football Queensland is going to help us start a recruiting campaign,” Kelso said.
“We’ll target secondary and higher education levels. We’ll also get out to parents, club representatives and ex-players – that is the area we see as having the greatest potential.
“We’re hoping that we can value-add to the HPE (Health and Physical Education) curriculum, particularly for Years 11 and 12, and we can go in and run some courses for students.”
The FNQ competition zone, with Cairns as the epicentre, stretches from Mossman in the north, west to Dimbulah and south to Innisfail.
“In 99 per cent of games we’re able to field a referee and two assistants for all our junior fixtures,” Kelso said.
“We have some referees doubling up on Fridays and Saturdays but we’ve had to put some restrictions on refereeing all three days just because of the volume and what happens when somebody gets injured.
“So we need to get young referees up and running now so in a couple of years’ time they’ll be fully qualified and top class referees.”
FQ State Referees Manager David Wiebe said the challenge currently facing FNQF is one all zones in Queensland will face at some point and emphasised the advantages of signing up as a match official.
“It is an opportunity to be involved in the game, to continually challenge yourself, keep fit, and even earn some pocket money,” Wiebe said.
“You’ll join a great community of others who also love football, who will mentor you and guide you through your refereeing journey.
“And now, there’s a clear pathway to the top for those who excel, as we’ve seen in recent years with many Queenslanders represented on the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League panels.”
Clubs can also assist by implementing a club referee program, with players nominated to attend referee courses to fill the void and assist officially-appointed referees when available.
Anyone interested in having a go at refereeing should go to FNQ Football or Football Queensland’s Become a Referee page. For those in Cairns, please contact FNQF referees boss Chris Dawson on 0484 010 926 or call FNQ Football on 4032 4520.
Words: Terry Wilson