Former Huddersfield Association referee Ron Cush is delighted to see a current local official getting some spotlight as Stephen Rushworth will take charge of the FA Cup’s first qualifying round game Bury AFC v North Shields which will be streamed live on the BBC digital channels.
Cush, 69, is delighted for Rushworth who he says is a good referee. However, despite his delight for his fellow official, the retired ref is concerned at the state of local refereeing more generally.
On Rushworth’s appointment, he said: “I’m delighted for Stephen, he was a late starter to refereeing, and despite being in his 50s, he has shown that age isn’t a barrier. You can progress.
“He came through the Huddersfield District League when he started refereeing and has now made it to level three. I hope the ball runs well for him on Saturday.”
Cush goes on to speak about his concern at the lack of young people wanting to get into officiating and believes if the issue isn’t looked into soon there could be a real shortage of referees for non-league football.
Cush, a former Huddersfield FA referee appointment secretary, also gave his opinions on new technology and whether officials should do interviews following matches on TV.
On the state of local refereeing he said: “When I was younger I played a lot of football, when I stopped playing I went into refereeing but that doesn’t happen now.
“You get young lads of 15 and 16 doing college courses and as part of that they might do some officiating which is great. If they get into doing it locally they can progress very quickly and move up the ladder.
“Unfortunately that’s where the problem lies, once they are gone they are gone. We need to encourage former players to get involved more and stay in the game locally.
“I held the position of referee appointment secretary from the 2009-10 season until the 2016-17 campaign. I did my best to get good local refereeing standards up and to be as high as possible, not just in the top leagues but right across the board.
“When I first took over the position of appointments I was struggling to get 18/19 referees to staff games on both Saturdays and Sundays. This meant that most games went understaffed by a qualified referee which represented around 70% of games. By the time I retired from the position this jumped to around 85/90% of games that didn’t have a referee for their fixtures.
“It took a lot of hard work to get referees but by taking them on board and giving them selected games to their abilities, it gave some the confidence to gain game experience and then go on to gain promotions to higher grades of refereeing.
“I was a referee in Huddersfield for 32 years and have only just retired due to knee problems. During my time as a referee I was also a referee instructor, mentor and referee observer. I think having been part of a very good team of instructors it helped me be able to appoint referees to the right games.
“The problem now, as then, is that there is a lack of referees and the appointment secretary has to put lesser qualified referees onto games they are not quite ready for. You can equate it to learning to drive. Yes, you know the basics but you progress with experience.”
Back in 2017 Cush was presented with the first ever certificate for outstanding contribution to refereeing by former Leeds United legend Norman Hunter from the West Riding County FA.
He also has received an award for 30 years’ service from the Huddersfield Referees Association which was presented to him by officials Jon Moss and Andy Madley.
On the introduction of VAR at the very top of the football pyramid Cush believes the more technology the referees have at their disposal the better.
He said: “I think the introduction of technology is a good thing, the more we can help referees the better because they are making decisions in seconds and without VAR don’t get a second look.
“I think it is good that they get a second chance to view it. People need to understand more how difficult it is to be an official and the pressure they are under.
“Every decision now is pulled to pieces and is scrutinised and I think that’s unfair. The social media world now is very harsh too with endless posts slagging referees off. I think that has had an effect on the reason why people don’t want to get into officiating.”
Cush also gave his thoughts regarding match officials talking to reporters after games and believes if done properly then it should be implemented.
He said: “I don’t understand why we don’t let our officials talk more and be able to explain why they made the decision they did.
“There are good reasons to let officials speak to the media. They can gain more positive publicity by explaining their thought process. This could help to stop the abuse online but also it would mean pundits don’t have to go over every fine detail.
“People say refereeing should be black and white and whilst there are 17 laws with which referees must abide by there is also an unofficial 18th law which is using common sense.
“Personally I think letting referees have their say is a good idea, but I doubt it will ever be implemented. One of the good things that has happened locally is that we have had top Premier League referees come and talk to us and do sessions with our local officials.
“This has been very well received and I think it’s fantastic that young lads and girls can not only meet the top people but directly learn from them too.”