Glasshoughton Welfare joint manager Darren Holmes says he is concerned by the referee shortage crisis that has gripped Toolstation NCEL Division One this season.
Division One referee and assistant appointments have been constantly changing throughout the season and some games have only had a official appointed less than 24 hours before.
The league have also on multiple occasions had to appoint Step 5 officials as the match referee, despite the minimum requirement being Level 4 and Holmes admits it is a concern for the local game.
“I don’t like to criticise referees myself as I was a registered referee up until a few years ago,” Holmes told Non League Yorkshire.
“My dad was a referee. I think it is a struggle to get referees when there is so much football being played. We have various leagues and levels in men’s and women’s football.
“Referees can pick and choose and coming into the Northern Counties East League where they are going to get grief every week, I’m pretty sure they are going to think ‘I’m going to go and referee somewhere else and get an easier game’.
“You can see from the standard this year that it has been a struggle to get referees. They have clearly had to promote some too early and you can tell that some have limited experience.
“The league has got to become a better, welcoming and friendlier place for referees. At the end of day, referees are human beings and they have got to want to do the job. They have to be made more welcome.
“I don’t think there is a high level of abuse, I just don’t think managers and players appreciate the importance of a referee and two assistants because without them there is no game.
“On a couple of occasions here (at Glasshoughton), we have heard that there’s been no referees appointed to our game this weekend a couple of days before. It would be unprecedented if a game got postponed because they didn’t have enough officials. I’ve never known that.”
After a glittering playing career with the likes of Emley, Pontefract Collieries and Glasshoughton, Holmes briefly took up officiating and had set his sights on conquering the NCEL again but with a whistle.
However, a few bad experiences made him throw his whistle away – to the gain of Ossett Albion Reserves, Nostell Miners Welfare and Glasshoughton who has gone to enjoy success with on the management front.
“I was a newly-qualified referee at either level six or seven in the Wakefield leagues on a Saturday and Sunday,” he said.
“I got a massive amount of abuse and as an ex-player I refereed three or four times and I just thought I can’t do this. I gave it up after three or four games.
“That was about ten years ago. I had stopped playing and I had wanted to be back on the pitch. As a player there is nothing better about being on the pitch and the next best thing is being a referee.
“I took my referees badge and I wanted to work my way up to Northern Counties East League level. I was at an age where I could still do if I did it quickly.
“But the level of abuse I was getting…I just wasn’t enjoying it. It was a standard I had never played or been involved at because I had always played a lot higher, but some of the stuff like the blatant rolling around, appealing for things that were ridiculous. It was not for me.”