St Clair United leads recruitment push for referees

Representatives from St Clair United and Nepean Referees Group alongside the juniors referees.
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Playing sport without a referee can often lead to chaos on the pitch, not to mention it’s also detrimental to the development of up-and-coming players.

With St Clair United Soccer Club reaching an impressive 863 members this season, they were determined to make sure as many games as possible were officiated by a qualified referee.

“We found a lot of junior games weren’t getting allocated referees because there was a shortage of them, so we created our own cadetship program to assist in the officiating of our younger generation,” Ladies Coordinator, Jess McIlvenie told the Weekender.

“Our goal was to have every single game that we have here at Mark Leece Oval officiated by a referee, so it’s not just the parents.”

St Clair United’s referee cadetship program was open to everyone, but they had a particular focus on getting more females involved.

“St Clair is a 1-star Club Changer and one of our goals was to increase female participation in refereeing,” McIlvenie said.

Junior referees from St Clair. Photo: Melinda Jane.

Club Changer is Football Australia’s Club Development Program, which aims to protect and enhance clubs, make them stronger and more resilient, lead them in building welcoming and inclusive cultures, and educate them on positive environments for players, coaches, volunteers, and officials while planning for long-term viability and success.

As clubs progress through the criteria, they’re awarded 1, 2, or 3 stars. For each star award, benefits and incentives are unlocked for the club to utilise and further progress their capacity and capability.

St Clair United went from four to seven female referees this season, with a handful of those set to be recruited by the Nepean Referees Group (NRG) for further training.

McIlvenie said the interest in becoming a football referee at St Clair United has been strong and the club is committed to supporting their junior referees the whole way.

“Yes, the juniors do get some pocket money for refereeing games, but a lot of them are genuinely interested in it,” she said.

“The green arm bands they wear indicate they are under 18 and a junior referee. We also have club officials walking around when our junior refs are out on the field, and we offer them advice at half-time, so there’s plenty of support for them.

“I’d like to see them all have big futures in the game and perhaps one day referee in the State League or even the A-League.”

Nathan Taylor chatted with junior referees this week. Photo: Melinda Jane.

St Clair United junior referee Melinda Jenkins, who also plays football, has been blowing the whistle for the past three years. She said she’d love to officiate at the highest level one day.

“I started refereeing because my brothers were referees at NRG and I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” she said.

“It’s a fun hobby, being out in the open air and off devices. I would like to ref in the State League or A-League in the future.”

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