REFSIX in attendance at the FA Referee Diversity Event

This weekend REFSIX attended the first ever FA Referee Diversity Event at St George's Park.  The purpose of the event was for the FA and PGMOL to give an update on their ongoing commitment to diversity and referees from all backgrounds as well as network and get feedback on how the two organisations can continue to improve.

Delegates heard from a star studded line up including Mike Riley, General Manager of PGMOL and Neale Barry, Head of Refereeing at the FA.

The day kicked off with Richard Glynn-Jones, National Referee Manager,  and Mike Morrissey, Chair of the FA Referee Diversity Action Group, kicking off with an update on how the RDAG has been put together and the activities they've undertaken to date to get a picture of diversity in the Refereeing workforce throughout the country.  This was followed by a break-out session where the 100+ attendees broke in to groups to discuss barriers and solutions to attracting and retaining referees from different backgrounds.

Mike Riley then spoke about how the PGMOL's role is to "inspire everyone with a whistle to realise their ambition and reach it."  He mentioned that he wants to ensure that opportunities are there regardless of background and wanted to ensure the refereeing workforce was representative of the country.  

Neale Barry then discussed a variety of different aspects that the FA are working on to improve the refereeing landscape and provide more development opportunities.  He talked about the CORE (Centre of Refereeing Excellence) program that has kicked off this year across 8 regions and how the FA wanted to ensure a consistent Refereeing Curriculum was applied across the country.  This will be partly be achieved by the exciting announcement that the Refereeing department are creating an Online Refereeing Portal for education and development.

Prior to lunch Steve Child, Select Group 1 Assistant Referee, talked us through his career to date and his journey in overcoming being born with a hearing impairment and the great job the PGMOL had done to ensure he was able to communicate effectively.  This really resonated with the audience and reminded us that diversity comes in many shapes and sizes, race, religion, gender and disability.

After a great buffet, Kevin Coleman, the FA Equality Manager, discussed how the FA has put in to place a 5 year strategy to improve the culture of diversity and inclusion across the National FA and the Counties too, not just in refereeing but across the board in all walks of football.  He mentioned how many County FA's now have an Inclusion Advisory Group to hold the County accountable to inclusion and provide guidance and feedback on how to improve.  

Stuart Attwell, Select Group Referee, then discussed his amazing career, that has seen him referee games in over 30 countries and the tough period that he endured when he was taken off the Select Group list and his journey to get back to the top.

Following a great day the audience then has a Q&A session MC'd by Jo Stimpson, FA's Women's Referee Manager, asking questions of Lisa Rashid, a Level 3 Referee and Akil Howson, Select Group 2 Assistant Referee.  

Overall, it was a great day to hear so honestly from the highest levels in the game overseeing refereeing in this country.  It was great to hear where they are in terms of inclusion and diversity and how they are passionately looking to continuously evolve the refereeing landscape to ensure anyone, no matter their background, will be able to participate as a referee and achieve their goals.  

PS. If you ever get an opportunity to visit St George's Park, snap it up.  It's one of the most incredible venues you're likely to see.

Hassan Rajwani