The referee is probably the most hated and yet most loved man in the beautiful game of football. With 7,000 refs leaving the game in Britain because of abusive behaviour, it’s no wonder that the Football Association felt it was time to do something.

The Respect the Ref campaign was launched at the beginning of 2009 and its main hope is to pin point and eradicate unacceptable behaviour in grass roots football.

But, the questions which are asked constantly of referees are things like, why are referees so hated? Is it because they make loads of mistakes? Because they can help a team win or lose a game?

Leslie Abbott, a local Lincolnshire referee, has been in the game for over 34 years and is highly respected as a football ref within the Lincoln area. Having been in both youth football and senior football he has seen what kinds of problems are happening:

“Certain referees in local football do it simply to just get a few bob out of it. But I also know there’s an awful lot of referees who actually go and referee simply because they love the game.”

Managers and players in the professional leagues not always have conducted themselves in a professional manner and have, on occasions, shown a lack of respect. Recently Sir Alex Ferguson made a comment on a referee’s supposed lack of fitness, causing the issue to be raised in not only premiership football, but in grass roots football as well.

At the local level, fitness to a certain degree is required. But not having to undertake any fitness measures can cause many problems:

“If you’re up and down with the game, yeah, you can nip a lot of things in the bud.”

In the youth leagues the players tend to be more easily influenced by the topflight stars they see on the television. This causes all sorts of problems for refs, such as players swarming them and using foul language, if a decision doesn’t go their way. Abbott tells us how to target the problem:

“Personally what is going to stop, where the referees really get the respect is once these players in the premiership football i.e. your Rooneys, etcetera, etcetera stop having a go in the referees face.

“If it stops at the top level I think it will filter down.”

So with the FA trying its hardest to target the problem, let’s hope it is tackled early, so that it doesn’t cause too many injuries to the world of refereeing.