Football referees are finally getting their eyes tested – after years of being the butt of terrace jokes.
Fifty newly-qualified match officials in Lancashire have blown the whistle on their worst critics by agreeing to have regular sight checks as part of National Eye Health Week.
Galloway’s Society for the Blind in Preston came up with the idea to highlight the dangers of failing to look after your eyes.
“Over 50 per cent of sight loss could be prevented and we are urging everyone to make sure they have regular eye tests,” said Stuart Clayton, the chief executive of Galloway’s.
“Referees are always the ones who get the most stick about their eyesight, so we thought they would be an ideal group to get this message across.”
The new referees had their eyes checked at a passing out parade at the Lancashire FA headquarters in Leyland this week. Steve Stewart, the LFA’s referee development officer, said: “The 21st century referee has to make sure all aspects of his or her game are in great shape. This means that issues like fitness, diet and general health are extremely important.
“Great referees depend on their ability to clearly see and accurately read a game for 90 minutes. Taking care of our bodies, like proper athletes do, also means taking care of our eyes and eyesight. They are our most important asset – including our whistles!”
Galloway’s advise a full eye examination at least once every two years as part of everyone’s healthcare routine. It is not just about whether people need glasses – today’s eye checks can reveal many eye conditions, as well as other health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure.
“Many of the eye conditions, if found early enough, can be treated successfully,” added Stuart Clayton. “Yet many people get their teeth checked more often than their eyes.”
Galloway’s say there are 37,000 people living with sight loss in Lancashire. Only one-third of registered blind or partially-sighted people of working age are in employment. The charity, which has centres in Penwortham, Chorley, Southport and Morecambe, relies on donations for the £850,000 a year it needs to run its services.