Walsall FC Foundation were delighted to launch the Referee Mascot Experience at Saturday’s match against AFC Wimbledon.
Across England many upcoming referees face uncomfortable situations that deter them from pursuing the profession; this can be especially daunting for younger individuals.
The Referee Mascot experience is designed to encourage new, younger referees to enjoy officiating the game and remain engaged and inspired in their journey as a match official.
Walsall FC and Walsall FC Foundation fully support The FA Respect Programme which aims to create a fair, safe and enjoyable environment in which the game can take place. By demonstrating the same level of respect on and off the pitch for both players and referees we can ensure the steady growth of the game at all stages.
Walsall FC Foundation Director, Adam Davy, commented: "We had introduced the referee mascots, previously, in the season that was cut short due to Covid. It was something that we always wanted to reintroduce at the right time.
"During the Summer we worked with Birmingham County FA and they hosted a Referee Course at The Poundland Bescot Stadium and used our astroturf and Foundation classroom. It made complete sense to then support the participants as they were all young referees and starting their journey in to the world of match officiating.
"We have all seen the stories of referees facing difficult situations in the grassroots game. I hope that the opportunity to experience a match day with referees is something that helps to motivate them, inspire them and encourage them to continue following their passion to referee football."
At Saturday's match, we were happy to invite in young referee, Perran to mark the beginning of this revitalised initiative. Following on from his arrival at Walsall FC, Perran was able to warm up alongside his peers, meet the players and ultimately lead both squads out onto the pitch with match ball in hand.
Perran’s parent added: “It was brilliant, Perran loved how to the referees were chatting to him and showing him how they prepare for a game as well as carrying the match ball out at the front of the walk out before the game!
“He has told all of his mates about the experience and they are now interested in becoming referees as well, Perran was actually googling how to become a professional referee on the way home!
“Thank you to Walsall FC Foundation for making this so fantastic for him, he will always remember the referee experience.”
We look forward to offering this opportunity to more young people like Perran throughout the season and we hope to continue working alongside the FA, further encouraging upcoming referees.