Merseysportlive was invited alongside other media outlets to access the trial for body cams taking place in Middlesbrough.
The trial for body cams to be worn by grassroots football referees is currently taking place in Middlesbrough, Essex, Worcester and Liverpool.
The trial in Liverpool started in March in the Liverpool Old Boys Amateur League (LOBAL).
Dan Meeson, FA Head of Refereeing- Technical and Development told Merseysportlive: “If players and coaches have seen these devices as a deterrent then it is preventing misconduct and that is success for us.
“We have that urgency to give referees that added level of security, protection, reassurance and confidence to go out and referee on a regular basis.
“One or two people have forgotten how to behave but 99.9% of grassroots football in this country is played without incident every single weekend.”
Back in February, a BBC Radio 5 Live questionnaire revealed hundreds of grassroots referees feared for their safety when officiating.
Some referees described being punched, spat at and headbutted whilst almost all respondents experienced some form of verbal abuse.
We reported last year that a referee felt the FA lacked appropriate support for grassroots referees but since the body cam trial began, things have certainly improved.
Sophie Wood, a referee at North Riding County FA, said: “I can relax a bit more going into games knowing that if conduct was to start breaching that line, I’ve got the safety blanket of the camera if things do get bad for me.
“It has made players think about their behaviour even before stepping onto the pitch.
“They appreciate its got to a point now in grassroots football where this trial has had to take place so even coming into fixtures they are much more aware of their behaviour.”
How do the bodycams work?
• A harness is worn underneath the referees shirt and the camera is connected to the harness on the front by a strong magnet.
• The camera does not role for the duration of the game, it is only activated by using the switch on the side of the camera.
• Once the camera has started recording it has already recorded the 30 seconds prior to being activated.
• Once the referee has stopped the recording, the footage is automatically uploaded to cloud storage.
• When the referee submits their match report, the footage can then be used in disciplinary hearings as evidence of players or coaches that have been abusive or violent.
One of the key benefits of the body cam is the front facing screen. When the camera is activated, the players can see they are being recorded.
Alasdair Field, CEO at Reveal Media who have produced the body cams, said: “I used to referee myself and I had the exact same problems we are trying to deal with here.
“That was about ten years ago, and we have always thought there is an opportunity to improve the game with this.”
According to the FA, there is currently 28,000 qualified referees in England.
With the trial continuing to be a success the FA will investigate funding once the trial has finished.
If the FA see positive results, the use of bodycams may become normal for referees in the grassroots game up and down the country.
(Featured image courtesy of Ben Izzard)