Referee speaks out as Merseyside youth league suspend weekend matches to raise awareness of abuse

Keith Radcliffe says that incidents are on the rise. Credit: Liverpool Echo

A football referee has spoken out against physical and verbal abuse officials are facing across Merseyside ahead of a region-wide fixture postponement this weekend.

The Merseyside Youth Football League (MYFL) has cancelled all games that were set to be played this weekend to raise awareness about the abuse referees in the league are facing from both parents and coaches from its under-sevens league up to the under-16s league.

Stacey Savage, secretary of the league and the person responsible for organising the league's referees has revealed that one incident even saw a referee go to their car crying during a match.

Around 20 of the 50 referees in the youth leagues are under the age of 18, with children being able to apply for the course from the age of 14, meaning a number of the incidents involve children being verbally abused.

Ms Savage said: "We want to press the reset button. The majority of people are well behaved but there is a minority.

"We want people to take a look at themselves and make them realise that they caused this.

"People don't want the games to be cancelled but it isn't right that people are being verbally and physically abused."The kids are affected by this as well. They know it's not right and when they see it happening they don't want to play. It's horrible."

The cancellations come two weeks after a referee in Wigan was attacked during a remembrance football match between Platt Bridge and Wigan Rose on Sunday, October 2 for giving a red card.

Despite the MYFL being the only league in the country taking part in the blackout, the secretary said the league has received a lot of recognition for its decision.

One referee who has been involved in the sport for more than 25 years is Keith Radcliffe. The 56-year-old has seen a number of incidents, but thinks that incidents are on the rise as referees seem to be facing more abuse than ever at a lower level.

Mr Radcliffe said: "We need to set an example and make a statement. If it continues it will get worse and there will be no referees for the games."

In a statement issued by the MYFL, they explained that the message is simple: "Those intent on causing trouble are not welcome at our matches and we ask you to 'stay away'."