CENTRAL Wales football’s long standing referee shortage has reached a new level.

Retirements and injuries, coupled by an early season spike in abuse which has led to six referees resigning since the start of the season have reduced the number of Central Wales Football Association (CWFA) referees to an all time low of 85.

With 84 referees needed to cover all Central Wales Football Association affiliated competitions each weekend it is expected to see fixtures cancelled sooner rather than later.

Assistant referees officer for Montgomeryshire, Ali Nicoll warned the situation would get worse before better and could take five years to bring referee numbers up to the required level.

“Losing referees to abuse is avoidable,” said Nicoll. “For every one that stops we need to recruit about four. One to replace the referee, one to address the overall shortage and the others are lost after experiencing abuse.

“Less than half of the region’s referees regularly attend decision making sessions which means consistency will never be achieved and lack of training can lead to player frustration and abuse.

“There is a noticeable difference in the experiences of those who do attend sessions and those who don’t but all we can do is try and make each referee better.

“There is also no mandatory fitness test for Central Wales and all we can do is encourage referees to keep fit for all levels and be grateful to all who make the personal effort.

“To further compound the issue we have referees having to travel to leagues outside of CWFA as other associations are unable to get enough to operate recreational level games.”

Nicoll insisted referee appointment officials must be supported while calling for reforms to the current system.

“How we use and allocate officials requires discussion to ensure we use what we have to maximum effect,” said Nicoll.

“I would like to use the experience of appointments officers to find a way we can use the limited resources we have to best effect.”

However the Machynlleth-based official warned leagues and clubs the dire situation would only get worse before current recruitment drives start to bear fruit.

“It could take five seasons before real progress is seen,” said Nicoll.

“There are courses being planned as we need a certain number of volunteers before starting.

“A new online course will be a massive benefit to the region as it is difficult for volunteers to repeatedly travel for a course.

“We have lost volunteers before due to the traveling demands, lack of numbers and admittedly our poor planning due to our inexperience.

“The cost to run a course can also be a restriction and the CWFA doesn’t have an endless pit of money to spend.

“Although frustratingly delayed to ensure its fit for purpose the new online course will speed up the recruitment process, save money and will become central to our plans to increase numbers.”