FOLLOWING an article published in the most recent Wiltshire Gazette and Herald in which Chippenham Town manager Mike Cook said too few referees at non-league level have played football, current Wiltshire Senior League president – and former Southern League official – Ken Clarke aired his own personal view on the subject.

He said: “Mike Cook, the manager of Chippenham Town, is reported as saying that The FA must do more to encourage players to take up refereeing when they come to the end of their playing days.

“This is interesting but, as many of your readers will be aware, it is not a new idea.

“There are many reasons why most players do not take up the whistle, most of these reasons illustrate why it would not necessarily produce a higher standard of refereeing with matches controlled by ex-players.

“I started refereeing some 45 plus years ago after playing, not very well, in the lower reaches of local Sunday football.

“However, I did manage to achieve a reasonable level as a match official, reaching the heady heights of the Southern League. But some things have changed little over the years.

“Throughout my active involvement many of my refereeing colleagues would talk to players with a view to draw them into refereeing, the suggestion was usually met with, at best, a blank, quizzical look or probably something to the effect, “You must be joking!”

“It would be worth asking the question now in any players’ changing room – any level – “How many of you fancy taking up the whistle when you have finished enjoying your playing days?”

“I don’t think the replies would be surprising, even if some would need careful editing before being printed.

“In discussion, following the Gazette report, it was pointed out to me that an ex-player is not necessarily positively equipped to referee, any more than having the skills and patience to act as a team manager.

“While interconnected, the various roles in any sport require different attitudes and outlooks.

“The FA may be able to attract a few more ex-players into refereeing, but it would certainly be an uphill task.

“Mr Cook’s comments referring to interaction between match officials and clubs, while inextricably linked to the various challenges facing all levels of football, is a subject that needs addressing through appropriate channels.”