Harvey Butler says the Jersey FA’s new initiative will give junior referees greater confidence on the field and allow them to enjoy their hobby without fear of public criticism from players, coaches and spectators.
The scheme was introduced last month to highlight that a referee is under the age of 18 and still honing their skills with whistle in hand. It follows a spate of recent complaints to the JFA regarding the use of foul and abusive language towards youngsters taking charge of JFA Combination junior fixtures.
Butler, who graduated to senior fixtures this season, following his 18th birthday, believes abuse from the sidelines only breeds further errors.
‘If coaches and players get on your back you do start to worry that you’ll make more mistakes,’ he said. ‘If [the abuse] doesn’t happen you get more confidence and it ends up being better for the players.
‘The purple shirts definitely highlight it more. Younger referees are obviously going to make mistakes and having these shirts will hopefully help with confidence in the game. It lets other people know that they’re still young – not just the coaches and players but people on the sidelines as well.’
Jersey Wanderers midfielder Butler – shortlisted for the JFA’s Junior Player of the Season award for 2020/21 – added that coaches of junior teams have a responsibility to set an example for their players. His comments, and refereeing career, have been shaped by one particular incident of abuse soon after his refereeing debut, aged 14.
‘If the coaches behave well, it shows the players how to behave and influences them to respect the referee more,’ he explained.
‘A while ago there was a game where a coach was constantly on my back, saying “you got this wrong, you got that wrong”. You think about it constantly and you worry that if you make a bigger mistake, are they going to shout at you even more?
‘In junior games the players take it from the coaches. I’ve found, doing senior games this year, there is a lot less shouting from the coaches and the players.’
Butler’s brother, Jonty (16), is also an Island referee.
‘I’m one of the people who is able to brush it off but I think it would affect Jonty more, and other referees,’ he added. ‘They might think “what’s the point?”, if you get that every week.
‘Jonty has said that the main thing with the new shirts is confidence. If he knows he’s not going to get abuse from the sidelines he can just get on with what he enjoys doing.’
The JFA installed two hoardings on the stadium fencing at Springfield last month, reminding supporters to treat those on the field of play with respect.