AFTER struggling for numbers of willing officials in recent seasons, Furness Premier League referees secretary Bob Davies is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Several newcomers joining the ranks and some former FPL whistlers returning for the occasional fixtures have led to an increase in games being covered by qualified officials, including all but one for a round of matches last month.

There are still games going without appointed officials though and while Davies is acutely aware the situation is not perfect, he is at least pleased to see numbers of referees slowly starting to grow.

“We got three lads who came through the basic referees course in July and one who is doing junior football who has stepped up to do a few senior games as well,” said Davies, who is still an active referee.

“We’ve had a couple of lads who had finished refereeing, mainly because of getting a bit older and feeling their joints, who have come back as and when they can referee, which I’m very grateful for.

“We have covered a lot more games than we were last year, but having said that there are still senior games on Saturdays which aren’t getting covered.

“We’re coping better, but it would be nice if we could cover them every week. It’s a lot better than it was though.”

The issues which have led to referees giving up in the past have not gone away, yet that situation could improve when the FA implements sin-bins for dissent for all leagues at step seven on the pyramid and below from next season.

The West Lancashire League and FPL will both be affected by that ruling and Lancashire FA referee officer Lewis Smith attended a recent Furness Referees Society meeting to outline how the sin-bin will work.

And from his own experiences, Davies believes it could prove helpful.

“In pre-season games quite often, rather than caution lads, if someone has been nattering away and moaning about decisions, I quite often say ‘go and calm yourself down then you can come back after 10 minutes’,” said Davies.

“You try to take the heat out of some situations in pre-season. Some say you shouldn’t because it’s another game and you should apply the rules, but sometimes I feel you can have a word.

“I don’t know if they always appreciate it, but you tend to think you don’t want to stop people playing football.”

Anyone interested in refereeing can attend one of the society’s meetings on the second Monday of each month at Hawcoat Park Social Club or contact Davies for more information.