Referees to get body cameras in English grassroots leagues to tackle abuse

English grassroots referees are to be allowed to wear video cameras during matches, in an attempt to reduce the levels of abuse they face.

The Football Association confirmed on Friday that a trial of bodycam technology – a first in world football – would be conducted across four regional adult leagues this season after being authorised by the law-making body Ifab.

Approximately 100 referees are expected to use the equipment over the first three months of the trial in Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Worcester and Essex. Footage captured on the camera can be used as evidence in a disciplinary hearing if required. The trial starts this weekend in Middlesbrough.

A survey of 900 grassroots officials conducted by the BBC this week found that a third said they had been physically abused by either spectators, players or managers. Daniel Meeson, the FA’s head of refereeing (technical and development) said the trial offered the opportunity to better understand such behaviour and protect referees.

“We care passionately about the welfare and support for our referees in England and our national game simply could not operate without them,” he said. “Across all levels of our game we have some of the best referees in the world – many of whom have dedicated their lives to the refereeing – and they deserve our utmost respect and thanks. So we are excited to explore how bodycams can be used in grassroots refereeing so that we can better understand how they could help affect the behaviour of players and coaches towards them.”

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The FA is to examine the evidence collected by the trial during the close season and, if judged a success, will roll out the technology across further grassroots leagues next season. The trial is being run in partnership with the technology company Reveal Media, which is delivering the bodycams.

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Paul MacInnes