7000 players, but there's a shortage of soccer referees
THE ugly side of the beautiful game is the number of experienced referees is in decline.
Despite nearly 7000 players enjoying their soccer across the Northern Rivers, a shortage of match officials has seen Football Far North Coast start a recruitment drive.
But for Luke Mackney, 33, Maddie Smith, 18, and Anthony Smith (no relation), 48, refereeing is one of the highlights of their sporting lives.
Smith said it was very enjoyable.
"I like giving back. I played the game when I was younger and I followed in the footsteps of my father and brothers," he said.
"It's something I enjoy and have a good time (doing) and hopefully the players have a good game, too."
Maddie has been a match official for three years now as well as playing for Dunoon.
"My brother referees as well ... I really love it (and) it's really flexible - I just did Year 12," she said.
"I'd certainly encourage other women to have a go."
Mackney said he got involved because his mates did.
"I was 16 when I started," he said.
"I'm probably a better ref than a player."
FFNC general manager Steve Mackney said being an official has many advantages.
He said being a match official meant people could choose their level of commitment.
"There's opportunities for people playing to also referee and they get to pick and chose the times and days they officiate," Steve said.
"You won't earn a fortune officiating games but no-one does it for the money."
He said FFNC would support anyone interested in taking on refereeing, adding a referee courses would be run in the next few months.
"Refereeing can be a tough gig but one which is very fulfilling," he said.
"Over many, many years I conclude it's a very positive experience. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it."
While FFNC anticipates an annual influx of young match officials, their lack of experience means they are not ready to referee games beyond Grade 13, Steve said.
"If we are to satisfy the more demanding role that match officials have in our game as players age and competitions get more rigorous and scrutinised, we need more senior recruits," he said.
For more information visit http://footballfarnorthcoast.com.au/about-us/