Referee’s need help or do they?

Referee’s, their assistants and the whole man or woman in black or whatever colour they like to wear these days has always been a contentious issue. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t but why does it appear that while the game has moved on tremendously those in control of the game on the pitch appear to be lagging behind?

My late dad was a referee at County League kind of level in the 60’s and when I played youth football in the late 80’s he took it up again then for a few years before hanging up his whistle. Whilst playing I also served on a junior league committee and of course there were reports of abandoned games and incidents where referee’s had suffered not just verbal abuse, thankfully though not too often.

Granted the latter were few and far between and we haven’t seen that happen in regular occurrences in the non-league game. But it never made me want to pick up a whistle and join that side of the game and it still doesn’t now.

As I stated above the game has moved on with its millions but those needing control on the pitch seem to have been left behind to find their own way to be better. It’s hard to watch when you see other sports finding ways to eradicate mistakes.

After all we’re all human and there is a margin for error that simulation can take away. Cricket and tennis both used video to get decisions right that the naked eye wasn’t able to decipher, rugby miked up their referee’s to explain decisions and also used video evidence to back themselves up and the NFL have forever used the same rugby method.

All sport is worth money and it’s too much to get these decisions wrong in today’s technological age. You can argue though that these sports aren’t as fast paced as our beautiful game and that’s where VAR became a chore within the game. This season it has been more refined but still throws up the odd borderline decision which means the system still needs a revision.

But what of the men and women still in the thick of the action? There appears to be quite a difference in quality as you move up to the National League itself. Now these officials have all progressed through the leagues below and only yesterday I was re-tweeting from a couple of people how good their referee was on Saturday afternoon, refreshing to see.

On the flip side of that coin was in the National League itself where once again decisions didn’t go the way they maybe should have done. This season I’ve seen games from the National League down to Step 7 and the better ones are definitely underneath the top division, but is it because they’re stifled in the way they referee and also run the line?

How much feedback do they get on their performance, good or bad? The fact they know the days they’re being assessed is wrong, I know back in the day you didn’t know until they popped their head round the door of the changing room after the game, that’s how it should be.

One gripe of mine is the way they are treated by players in the top flight, mike them up and no game would be shown before the 9pm watershed! That filters down all the way to the bottom with these players being role models, you don’t see a single rugby nor NFL player going to berate a match official so why should it be happening in our game?

Maybe if that respect was there, if referee’s were allowed to control the game with a degree of common sense then we wouldn’t see so many social media posts saying another one has had a shocker. One referee I know well at County League level was pushed around a couple of weeks back, thankfully there was no bad damage inflicted on him but at a time when there is a shortage of the men and women in black the game should be doing more for them, not burying their heads in the sand and bumbling along.

I know some people reading will say respect works both ways and I agree it does, the game at all levels is worth money to all and these decisions need to be right and they should be provided with all the tools to get a decent performance out, not too much to ask is it?

An old haunt proves a happy return

For those of you who read the Cray Wanderers vs Horsham blog posted a day or so ago you’ll know I spent the evening with the former Bromley boss Neil Smith.

Smudger as he’s most commonly known, was someone I interviewed not long before we went into that first lockdown two years ago on the back of watching him in the BT Sport production on five clubs it followed, Ben Strevens I had made contact with after watching it and he provided a few numbers for me.

Apart from a couple of Zoom chats since with Strevs and Darren Currie, this was the first opportunity for us to meet up after 2 and a half years and take in a game together. Smith lives a short walk from Hayes Lane but this game was going to be his first return to the club, where he spent ten years and some very memorable times, since his sacking last March, probably best it was a Cray game rather than the landlords.

Many of you will know he’s great company, loves to chat and knows so many people, so of course he sorted out the tickets for us but also introduced me to the leading lights of Cray Wanderers FC, Gary Hillman and Sam Wright.

For me as someone who would love to get on the football writing ladder and although this blog does wonders I want to take it further so any contacts I get inside the non-league game I cling onto and over the past couple of years my contact book has grown immensely and is still building.

We could quite easily have gotten into the stadium and sat down to watch but instead Neil made sure I met everyone around, a nice touch. Steve King the manager of National League South side Dartford was there to check on his opponents in the FA Trophy in a week’s time, so there was a conversation to be had and you pick up bits and pieces.

Being the tenants to Bromley meant Smudger knew plenty of people in and around the stadium and it was nice to see him catching up, sharing a laugh with people all the way through the evening.

When we got to half time he came across Jerry Dolke, a former owner of the Ravens, another handshake and conversation being had, all the time plenty to listen to and take on board.

Of course we chatted during the game, two years and more is a long time and a lot to happen. Neil’s had offers, not a handful but a couple, not yet the right one has landed in his lap. He told me he’s never spoken to so many owners in his life but before last March he’d not been looking to go anywhere and I think having the time out of a club has opened his eyes a little to what else is out there and how differently other clubs do things, you never stop learning.

After the game I made sure we stopped off for a beer in the bar and to see the reaction he got from the bar staff and two of the elder stewards was fantastic, a man very much revered around Hayes Lane and definitely not forgotten.

That wasn’t the end of the conversations once Cray boss Danny Kedwell arrived in the bar, another handshake and conversation and maybe someone I’ll tap into for a blog piece, interesting angle for him for his 1st managerial job whilst working for Ebbsfleet Utd’s academy.

When you’re in the company of guys like these and others with so many stories and things to tell you it’s a shame when the evening has to end but I think getting Smudge out the house and back down to the ground for the first time in over 18 months cleared out a few cobwebs and there is a possibility he was going back for more at the weekend as Cray faced Bishops Stortford!

Great guy to know, fantastic company and I hope we get to repeat it later on this season, who knows maybe I’ll get him up to The Hive for more than one or two beers……

Live streaming shouldn’t be ending

Last season we know was a different and difficult time across football, especially at non-league level. As clubs, as fans, as league officials, in a lot of cases we learnt to adapt as the season moved along its way.

One of things that happened and needed to very quickly was streaming of games mostly at National League level due to the branding of the ‘elite’ tag meaning they weren’t allowed spectators whilst those at Steps 3 and below saw their fans back inside until the suspension and ultimate culmination of their season came along.

Some of the quality was very good, some pretty shoddy and some well you wondered what you paid for in the first place. Granted a lot was put together in a short space of time but some clubs were still providing, well not sure you could call it a service, ropey efforts in February.

But, it seems, the FA who are re-instating the UEFA ruling, believe we’re all back to normal already, that the blackout from 3pm onwards on a Saturday returns in force this season once again but you have to ask yourself why?

Levels above non-league I fully understand, there are TV deals in place and to a degree you can argue the same for the National League clubs despite the North and South clubs not getting live coverage, so then why can’t it continue from Steps 3 and those below them?

Last season was innovative as it needed to be and while we are in a position to watch a game at all levels this season there are going to be people not comfortable with attending games at their local clubs.

Much like it’s personal choice about whether you wear a mask in public places or continue to want to social distance, the same could be said about attending a match in a stadium well populated by people, but by the same token there will some who are not comfortable with this.

Should they be discriminated against unable to watch their team when streaming games from the lower levels? Surely it’s going to add to the income home teams need to replace from last season and before, would it actually encourage away fans who are unable to travel to tune in?

I believe it would and I think this is a massive own goal of the highest proportions from the FA, I can’t say I’m surprised at all, I mean they’ve only had a few months to have a think about this and maybe actually do something for the good of the game, but hey let’s not get in the way of the shoddy job they do as the national association.

But the daft thing is it doesn’t appear to apply to midweek games, it’s about as clear as a government policy isn’t it! As long as you avoid the 2.45 – 5.15 section on a Saturday you’re free to do as you please but I can’t see clubs streaming bit parts of their season.

It should surely be an option if clubs want to explore it, there will be many below NL level that didn’t stream anything last year but why can they not give it go this year, floating fans might be picked plus also those visiting fans who can’t spare the time to travel could watch it live or even later in the day as a recorded option.

That’s not to say it will take away the experience of watching live inside a ground and nor would I want it to, it’s all about exploring the options for those less fortunate and those that need a little more time to feel comfortable around groups of people once again.

Surely, the FA should be lobbying for change due to our football system compared to the rest of Europe? At times though with the FA you’ve got to wonder if it’s 1921 we’re living in and not 2021………

Time to make a mark

As pre-season starts to move into full swing with the National League clubs now back in training, my attention turns in a lot of directions. With details of friendlies now on the horizon, plans start to get made.

As many know I can’t stand pre-season friendlies! Well I can for about 60 minutes then the raft of substitutions slows the game down and my interest quickly goes.

Now of course I know the reason for the games is to get minutes in the legs of all the players and some sharpness whilst working out which formation fits and which one doesn’t.

And that’s ok, some of these teams haven’t been in action since December at best last year although some had a dabble in April and May this year. I know that this is not the reason for every pre-season but the former paragraph is.

On the other side of the fence there are supporters who haven’t seen their team in action since last year, I was lucky that Barnet enjoyed their two final league games with fans allowed into The Hive and I made both games and for that reason I’ll be finding my way to some games over the next few weeks to catch up with friends at other clubs that I’ve not seen for months!

Which also means that I can start to return this blog back to the story of non-league football, Barnet FC of course will feature as they are my club, but the beauty of such a large game at grassroots level means there is always scope for a story or a game to cover.

What the new season also means for me is the time to get the writing outside of this blog back on the go and getting paid for something I love to do. Last season I was approached by Step 5 Langney Wanderers to compile their round up of Southern Combination League Premier Division results in article fashion for each home game.

They were followed by East Preston from the same division here in Sussex who wanted an article for each home match programme and finally by Step 4 Met Police who joined just before the lockdown in November and had the pleasure of a couple of articles written for them.

Now these aren’t just any old article nor are they regurgitated with the same topic for everyone. Each one is written off the cuff in time for printing and both clubs gave me license to write on whatever I felt although it can be tailored to whatever each individual club wants.

Unfortunately, Wanderers didn’t make it out the other side of the pandemic and have sadly folded. But, both East Preston and Met Police will be featuring my work again this season and I am on the look-out for more clubs to join these two and benefit from not only having someone do something extra to contribute for the club programme, but something different.

It might work for some, it might not for others, it might mean a few more programmes need to be sold to cover the small outlay. As each club has their own article, they’re free to use it on any social media channels they have if they wish to, you won’t find the same article out there twice!

Both Langney Wanderers and Warminster Town found by using an article on their club website increased their traffic fourfold, put it out there and they will come.

Anything a club uses of mine I will plaster all over my socials along with giving them some coverage within this blog, I mean 3,500 visitors per month on average is not too bad if you want people to see who you are and what you are doing.

If any club wants to see what was produced last year to see what they get for their money, then feel free to get in touch (details will be posted below) and I’ll happily provide them.

Last year should have been the year to start hitting this market, but some things had other ideas, I’m not planning on letting anything get in the way this time around, by the way it’s still coming home isn’t it………….

You can contact me on Twitter, @trevk37 or email me tkenterprises2019@outlook.com

Time to reflect

In the blink of an eye we’ve passed the midway point of what can only to described as a six months we never want to live through again. Personal pain, personal tragedy, mental struggle, loss of life, loss of job, many of you reading will no doubt relate to one of those but sometimes through those times comes a world of good.

And for me thats very true of two things on that little list, but not for this platform. What is starting to become of it is almost an explosion of satisfaction not just here on this blog but writing for me in general. What I’ve felt the past three months or so is tiny victories against the virus, I haven’t suffered from it myself but hopefully this blog has given people a chink of light every now and then to take time out away from things and immerse themselves in ramblings from me and also others.

I love a stat, always have done. What I hope you see and feel as you read through this piece is how staggering this has been in such a short space of time. I’ve have been blogging since September 2017 so it’s coming up close to three years. My dream growing up was to be a sports journalist, nothing else really, but it’s always been on the back burner as so to speak, life gets in the way. The invention of social media channels has given me a pathway into the industry I want to be in without needing to be mainstream about it.

The image above shows my figures for a full year of 2018, a nice little number for twelve months labour of love. I’ll break it down just slightly for those of you who don’t use WordPress what it all means. Views and visitors work differently, each time you visit the site to read on a daily basis you are only counted as a visitor once, but each page or blog you read is a view no matter how many times you log onto the site each day.

Just before I add the second slide I’ll add I set myself some targets for this year back in early January, sensible ones I felt to show a decent increase on 2019, they were to blog a minimum of six times a month, 250 visitors per month, to get 3000 visitors by December 2020 and reach 10,000 page views also by the end of the year. By the middle of May, I’d hit the 3000 visitor mark in less than half a year, April alone had over 1000 visitors! March blessed itself with 978 visitors, the 250 target blown out of the water. By early May 11,000 page views beat that target and in less than half a year all my targets were done. At that point it can be easy to get complacent and think time to put your feet up for the rest of the year, but not me! And then June unfolded…………

One month! I am beyond words when I look at it, as if this isn’t and doesn’t happen to me but it does! To hit that many unique visitors in 30 days when two years ago I had 1543 in a year blows me over, truly staggered by it, how far this has come in two years has really shocked me but in a good and positive way.

I always maintain that it’s not all down to me, it’s down to you reading what I write which I is why I say ‘thank you’ at the very beginning. Of course it is down to what topic I choose to write about and where I promote it too, thats in my control, you all reading it is not and to get these kinds of figures is really humbling.

It’s not just an English blog either, I know I have friends who travel abroad for business and of course people read while on holiday too, supporters exiled in other lands, but we’ve had none or very little travel for three months so to see the worldwide appeal is very humbling and that’s an every month thing, new ones pop up all the time and they might only view one article but I couldn’t be more thankful.

But, me being me I don’t tend to rest on my laurels, this kind of thing makes me hungry for more and to keep taking it places I never thought possible to do, the introduction of doing video interviews on a Saturday afternoon has only added to what I can already do and as more football returns more opportunities will be there to grab, as they say the sky’s the limit isn’t it………….