FootballHere’s a little discussion piece for those of you interested in the NRFL here in New Zealand.

The cost of entering the Northern Region Football League is made up of several components. Apart from actual entry fees, promotional fees and the like, clubs must pay referee’s fees upfront, along with a referees development fee.

All told, it’s a not inconsiderable sum of money.

As the President of one of the smallest clubs in the league, and someone who, effectively, is charged with finding this money I have a slight issue with this approach. In a nutshell, I’d ask, if clubs (and, by extension, the players) are expected to pay for the cost of referees then why are referees not expected to pay for the costs of the players?

Sound a little crazy? Possibly. But, please, hear me out.

Football at NRFL level and below is an amateur sport. Well, it’s supposed to be, so let’s just assume, for argument’s sake, it actually is. Players play, essentially, because they love the game. They play for enjoyment. Why do referees referee? Every ref I’ve asked will tell me it’s definitely not for the money. They’ve told me it’s because they love the game. It’s because they enjoy it.

Players need referees to play.  Equally, referees need players to referee. Both groups need each other if they’re going do what they want to do. And everyone’s in it for basically the same reasons.

But the financial model doesn’t reflect this. Clubs must contribute to the travel costs associated with getting players to games. Clubs must also contribute towrads the travel costs associated with getting referees to games. Clubs must contribute towards their own player and coach development costs. And they must also contribute to referee’s development costs.

It’s a conundrum. It perplexes me more and more as the dollars due each year go up and up.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m actually happy  to pay for services provided by referees, even though clubs don’t appear to have any input into affecting the quality of the services provided (that’s another post for another day). As long as this is a requirement of league entry then, quite frankly, I don’t have a choice.

But I do question the reasoning behind the logic that suggest, in an amateur environment, one group of stakeholders should fund the other group, but not vice versa. (And to the, “It’s always been that way” tribe, I’d ask, “Why should it always be that way?”)

To me the best solution would be to leave each group to fund their own activities. Is that being too cheeky? What do you think?