Referee Kai Saville in action at Basford United (Credit: Mick Gretton)

A young Nottinghamshire referee has said more people should take up the profession to ‘solve the problems’ around refereeing standards.

Kai Saville, who referees for the Nottinghamshire FA, has spoken about the issues of refereeing in Non-League football and how it can be improved.

With the importance of non-league football in England bigger than ever, questions about the standards of officiating are continuing to be asked.

Now a young Nottingham referee has said that the issues are stemming from both on and off the pitch.

Kai, 18, says the lack of people wanting to get into the job is hindering the standards.

Basford United’s main ground at Greenwich Avenue

“There is adequate refereeing at this level but there just isn’t enough doing it,” he said.

“Standards are slipping because there’s not many of us, if more people got into it then training would be at a higher quality.”

Matches across the country have been both postponed and cancelled due to lack of referees, and the job of linesman has been undertaken from club staff to parents.

“Standards are slipping because there just isn’t enough doing it”
Kai Saville

Basford United flag inside the grounds

Kai added that the abuse referees frequently get from players makes the job unattractive, saying that players “win it for themselves.”

The abuse referees get on the pitch has occurred at the highest level, but with no VAR in grassroots football, in-game issues are much more frequent.

The 18-year-old officiated Basford United Ladies’ County Cup quarter-final game, and despite the often negative reputation his job gets, said there is praise for the level of officiating that can be provided for the women’s game, too.

Basford United Ladies’ match against Retford FC

Josh Wakelin, Basford Media Assistant, added: “It’s great that there is high level officiating in the women’s game too.

“Saves parents from having to do the job instead!”

Trials have took place across the country where body-cams are worn by referees to help tackle on pitch abuse, which will be further extended during the season if they prove successful.


  • Refereeing is currently a very controversial issue in English football, from Premier League to Sunday League.
  • Officiating through VAR at the top level has been under scrutiny for years, culminating with Liverpool’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur on September 30, when a Liverpool goal by winger Luiz Diaz was incorrectly called offside.
  • The registration of referees in dropped by between 20% and 30% in 2021.
  • Many games across the country have gone ahead without a skilled official, or just been postponed entirely.