The Business of Sport – Martin Cassidy – CEO – Ref Support UK

The Business of Sports podcast allows for in-depth interviews where guests share their expertise and career journey to date. The episodes are full of great content, topics, and case studies. The Business of Sport gives an opportunity for the next generation of sport business professionals to learn about the variety of careers and opportunities with personal journeys. For those already in the industry, it gives a fresh take on some key subject matters and personal stories of challenge and success.

This Episode features Martin Cassidy – CEO – Ref support UK

Martin Cassidy is the CEO of the charity Ref Support UK, which offers a platform to referees independently of The FA. Martin is also the co-host of a popular podcast, Ref Pod. A former national list match official, Martin retired early due to injury. He took up refereeing after a knee injury stopped him from playing football. He worked for the FA at Wembley in The FA Referees Department for 7 years, coaching referees at all levels.

This episode covers:

Martin on the new Participant’s Charter:

“I think The FA have made some of the most, progressive, positive moves over the last 18 months that prior to that, they hadn’t made for decades really. They have never been so supportive of referees, so we are really delighted and we welcome it, absolutely we do.

Having Howard Webb come in is another wonderful move by The FA. He has already removed Mike Dean as VAR lead and what’s really positive is that the PGMOL have got together with the League Managers Association and the Professional Footballers Association to deliver this. It’s never been done before and my charity, Ref Support, have been calling for the bodies representing players and managers to stand up with The FA and the PGMOL in criticising how their members act towards referees. It’s got to make the environment on matchdays better for everybody. Sometimes, they use the word “passion”, to justify referee abuse. I was born and bred around Anfield and the likes of Shankly, Paisley and Dalglish were all passionate, but they didn’t treat referees like Klopp has done.”


Martin on the use of Bodycams by referees:


“It shocked me how many referees don’t report the abuse they get. Some might not do it because they have reported it in the past, but in their opinion, nothing has happened. There’s also the problem at the grassroots level is that most football is played within 20 miles of where referees live, so they maybe don’t want to go public for fear of bumping into the people involved.

We lobbied for Bodycams six years ago. We wrote to The FA, but the head of refereeing at the FA said they had no appetite for Bodycams. But it was just him, and when he left, the FA said we are going to go ahead with the Bodycam pilot, and I was told last week, it’s going to be expanded. It is proving to be a huge success, but we knew it would. The only barrier is the cost. But we have been working on developing an app for your phone and a strap to allow referees to wear it in matches at lower levels and feel more protected.”


Martin on diversity in refereeing:


“I was lucky enough to officiate games with Uriah Rennie, but we haven’t had a top flight official in the middle, since 1991 from the BAME community. On the representation side of it, I think they are doing some wonderful work and there’s real signs now, that everybody should have the same chance.

With the female side of things, we had made great progress in the 1990’s. Wendy Toms was running the line in the Premier League. A game in the Conference, as it was called then, had three match officials, all female. So what happened? Why has it taken util now to get female referees in the EFL? The FA had let down the Women’s game for decades. But now it’s a game changer and its down to those changes The FA have made in their structures. The “blazers” have gone and the people running it now are doing it transparently and look what is happening. I think we are in a better place than ever.”