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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 13:59 GMT
Matches cancelled in ref 'crisis'
Referee generic
Matches have been cancelled because of the referee crisis
Footballers in an amateur league based in north east Wales are having matches cancelled due to a "critical" shortage in referees.

Five Welsh National League matches were called off last Saturday and a further four will not go ahead this weekend.

"Every week we're having to call games off," said Arthur Pritchard, league referees appointment secretary.

A recruitment campaign has now been launched to encourage people to train as referees.

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Mr Pritchard added: "I'd like to think it's just a blip, but in recent years I've seen this trend developing and now the number of refs is falling off the graph."

There are up to 60 people qualified to referee matches in the league, which has 54 teams over four divisions.

But Mr Pritchard has fewer than half that number available to him.

Two courses are run every year to train match officials, and 40 people are currently learning the skills, but many are youngsters who are unable to officiate senior matches.

"It just doesn't help the senior football," said Mr Pritchard.

'Old chestnut'

The Premiership sides are being given priority to play their games but the Welsh National League divisions one, two and three are suffering.

Earlier this year BBC Radio Wales' Eye on Wales programme reported that growing abuse of football referees had led to a recruitment problem.

However, Mr Pritchard said he is not convinced that is the problem.

He added: "There's the old chestnut. Who wants to take the abuse?

"I don't think it's any worse these days than it ever was, but people's tolerance isn't what it was."

There was nobody available from the Football Association of Wales to comment on the situation.

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