THE early report card for the newly-formed Nepean Referees Group (NRG) is an A-minus, with the general consensus being they are doing a good job, say the clubs.
This is the first season NRG has been officiating games in the Nepean Football Association, which stretches from the Blue Mountains all the way to St Marys and out to the Hawkesbury.
Nepean had been using Nepean District Soccer Referees Association (NDSRA) referees for 50 years until it informed the group last year that their services would no longer be required for the 2014 season.
Nepean set-up its own referees group, which was met with much debate and uncertainty about whether or not the competition would be better or worse for the change. The new group had to find more than 100 of its own referees after many NDSRA members refused to join the new association.
It left clubs and players questioning not only if they would have officials at their games, but if those in charge would be good enough to officiate a match amid fears the new group of referees would be too inexperienced.
The Gazette contacted a number of clubs, asking how the change was working early in the season.
While most say it’s too early to tell if it will be successful, at this stage the majority are happy with the NRG, saying they’re at least as good as the NDSRA was when it ran the referees.
Blue Mountains Football Club president David Smith is a fan.
‘‘My initial response would be that we’re in a better place this year than we were last year, and if I could choose between the two I’d choose this year,’’ he said.
Bligh Park Football Club president Peter Budd agreed with Smith, saying his club had no problem with NRG or the inexperience of its referees.
‘‘We’re getting more coverage on Saturdays and about the same on Sundays,’’ Budd said.
“We seem to have younger refs and are having fewer complaints about their fitness.”
Richmond Ex-Servicemen's Soccer Club vice-president Ben Gabriel declared the move a success, and quashed any concerns about the quality of the new breed of young officials NRG has recruited.
“They’ve got to start somewhere, and the committee is happy,” Gabriel said.
The big bonus for clubs is that NRG provides information in advance as to which games it will be covering each week.
Under NDSRA, teams would simply turn up to the ground they’re playing at and wait for the referee to meet them, not always knowing if they had one.
Now if they don’t get one assigned to their ground they can make their own arrangements to have someone ref when NRG officials aren’t available.
“We’ve been happy, not only that we’re getting better coverage but if they don’t provide a referee they tell us in advance,” Gabriel said.
Glenmore Park Football Club president Michael Rooney was more neutral, saying you wouldn’t know NRG took over.
“Our coverage hasn’t changed this season and it’s business as usual for us,” he said.
“We’ve had some commentary on the referees but the complaints are no different to last year and I haven’t felt the need to approach Nepean about it.”
Emu Plains Football Club president James Warwick said he was happy with coverage, particularly now that Nepean is given more than one official at some of their games.
“I had a good relationship with NDSRA, but six eyes are better than two and coverage has been good,” Warwick said.
“It’s only early days but there is a fair bit of inexperience and we had one ref that turned up 30 minutes late and was pedestrian.
‘‘So we’ve only had one bad experience in 50 or so games so it’s not too bad.”
Lowland Wanderers president David Parkinson said his club had not fared so well from the new group.
While he stressed that he wasn’t angry at NRG, the numbers spoke for themselves when it came to his club.
“For two weeks in a row we didn’t have a single referee on Sunday,” he said.
“Nepean says they’re covering 79 per cent of matches, but last season we had coverage in 95 per cent of our games.
“But I still think it’s too early to rubbish it at the moment.”