Referees eager to return, but ‘we must all be patient’

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Jersey FA referee development officer Paul Kemp insists that pathways to a safe resumption will be followed with strict attention over the summer months as both the English Football Association and the Jersey and UK governments assess the ongoing risks of Covid-19.

It is still hoped that JFA Combination cup finals can be held in July, although that is looking increasingly unlikely due to the phased approach to lifting restrictions on group gatherings.

Kemp and his local colleagues have remained in touch regularly in a bid to maintain standards while grass-roots football remains on the banned list of activities, while they have also made use of resources from FA headquarters. He is confident Island referees will be fully prepared for any upcoming restart, although he hopes on-field adaptations will be minimal.

‘We meet quite regularly online now and the general consensus is that it is important that we don’t go back too soon,’ he said. ‘Ultimately we will be following the government guidelines.

‘I love football, we all love it and we all miss it. Football is a huge part of my life, as it is other people’s, and there is no doubt that the refereeing community are all missing it terribly. But my personal feeling is I wouldn’t want to go back until everyone can go and play football as it should be played. We want people to enjoy it – I don’t want a watered down version and I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I love full-blooded football … at the end of the day it is a contact sport and it has got to be played as it should be.

‘We have to be patient and go back when we’re all ready. Hopefully that way we will all enjoy it that much more.’

However, Kemp says online courses run by the FA have proved useful for considering potential changes.

‘They’re pretty good at the FA,’ he explained. ‘They do a lot of CPD [continuing professional development] sessions that are available on Zoom and there are actually eight sessions coming up which cover different areas of the game. You can chat to referees throughout the UK and they have guest speakers like Lee Probert and other former Premier League referees. The courses look at things like how to cope with mental stress and how to cope with what is likely to happen when we go back.

‘How we manage players might be different, and how they will have to conduct themselves generally, but we will see what comes down. If you watch the Bundesliga at the moment, where they’re wiping the ball every time is goes out of play … every club will have to have certain things in place but we will all just follow the guidelines that are given.

‘All we can do at the moment is keep up our fitness and our knowledge of any law changes for next season and look to get back as soon as it is safe to do so. No one will force anyone back and I don’t think the referees will feel any pressure. Everyone is chomping at the bit to get back – referees as much as players – but I think everyone is very sensible.’

He added: ‘There is no good time for something like this but it was coming up to the end of the season and that is always a good time. There were a number of cup finals coming up with we all enjoy … the end of the season is always good fun but we’ve missed out this season and that’s really hard. It must be terrible for the players.

‘When we all get the green like it will be exciting times again.’

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