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    The Refereeing Thread

    Rather than saddle every match-going thread with a link to my refereeing blog, I'm starting a dedicated thread for all things ref-related. And so, to get things started, here's, erm, a link to my latest entry, "Is selective deafness the best approach?"

    I'm coming to the conclusion that in the face of non-stop abuse, and the lack of official backing, the choice facing most amateur refs is simple: pack it in or suck it up.

    May this thread serve as a discussion point for all refereeing and Laws of the Game-related matters.

    #2
    The Refereeing Thread

    Have been enjoying your blog, Ian.

    Comment


      #3
      The Refereeing Thread

      We're experiencing a severe shortage of referees in grass roots rugby at the moment. In Essex this weekend we have eleven games without a referee although part of this is due to schools getting precedence over 2nd and 3rd team games. The problem is that a lot of players simply walk away from the game when they can no longer play. Some of the best referees I have come across played themselves, sometimes to a very good amateur level.

      The problem of abuse is making its way into rugby now. It's nowhere near the levels in football but I hope the problem doesn't get any worse.

      Comment


        #4
        The Refereeing Thread

        I always thought that there was a zero tolerance for dissent in rugby, and that even the slightest complaint to the referee meant a yellow card or punishment of some kind (not quite sure how it works in rugby). Disappointing to hear that it's changing in that sport too. At the local rugby club in my home town (Market Rasen & Louth, which ran four teams, and maybe still does) it was ex-players who usually did the reffing.

        Back to football - I wrote a piece in WSC sometime in the last year about playing in the Southern Olympian League in the early 90s, and how there was never any dissent, and rarely any cards. But apparently that Corinthian-influenced atmosphere is changing now too because the leagues thrive on the revenue they get from fining players.

        I ref these kids in their teens constantly moaning, and riling and fouling each other, and find it hard to remember a single occasion in 35 years of playing that I set out to deliberately foul someone. Yet when you yellow card them,they act like you've encroached on their civil fucking rights.

        edit: @Steveeeee - thank you.

        Comment


          #5
          The Refereeing Thread

          Like Steveeeee, I too enjoy reading your blogs imp. And like you, I am a referee who hails originally from Lincolnshire. I played to a reasonable standard, and officiated in England to a reasonable level as well. In all honesty, I don't recall ever receiving any real abuse, verbal or physical, other than the usual "you're shit/blind etc". My usual retort was something along the lines of "do you want to swap places, because you're having an absolute nightmare mate". I moved to Bermuda 6 years ago, and decided I would offer my services to the local FA. I was dropped straight into refereeing the top games in the Premier Division here, which isn't really of a great standard but can be competitive and 'emotive' at times. I was amazed at both the standard of referees football has had to suffer (distinctly average at best) and the level of abuse officials had to endure. I have no doubt the two are linked. I suppose being non-Bermudian and an unknown quantity, I was almost accepted initially, given that most officials here had (and some still have) links with individual clubs, and everyone knew everyone else's business. I am not saying there was any bias, but when you are known on a small island for being a member of a certain club, you leave yourself open to such accusations. This is coupled with the fact that those who make the referee appointments don't seem to at least try and keep officials away from games involving such clubs.

          The number of referees here is very small, and dwindling each year. Last season for example, out of 15 officials who did the majority of the games, only 2 were under 40. From my own experience, the abuse I have received here has been purely of a racist bent. It would appear that when I give a decision against a team, it was made based on the colour of my skin, and not the fact the No 5 kicked seven shades out of the opposing striker just outside the box. Added to this, when I make an official complaint about such abuse, the local FA do nothing to support me, which is more upsetting than the actual abuse itself. I continue to be a referee assessor, mainly because I still love the game, am too old and knackered to play anymore, and I genuinely want to improve the level of refereeing here if I can, even without the support of the local FA. But as you say, sometimes I do wonder why we bother. At least there is no snow, ice or freezing temperatures to contend with here.

          Comment


            #6
            The Refereeing Thread

            Good thread all.

            Bermuda, have you refereed the Bermudan cup final? No reason for asking other than, if you did, did you receive a commemorative* medal?

            *Four attempts.

            Comment


              #7
              The Refereeing Thread

              My main bugbear with officials right now is that in my daughters league we have teenage kids reffing games between 8 year olds.

              They do not assert themselves or communicate very effectively. Oftentimes the ball will go out of play and they will signal for a throw in, corner, goal kick or whatever but they will not do so explicitly or rather in a way that is easily comprehensible for an 8 year old. Pointing to the corner flag but saying nothing to signal for a corner might suffice at older age groups but at this age the girls need a little more guidance which the refs don't provide.

              Sometimes when the ball goes out of bounds the girls from both teams all look at one another wondering what to do when a simple "Blue teams throw" would have prevented any confusion.

              I'm not bothered at all about the mistakes the refs make because at this level the results of games mean absolutely nothing and anyway, they are gonna make mistakes here and there, big deal. I'm just mildly irritated that kids who are just learning the game are saddled with refs who are similarly novices.

              Comment


                #8
                The Refereeing Thread

                Great blog, good thread. Ex-ref here, East Sussex and Albania. I have to say that I had mostly positive experiences, with officials and players appreciative in the main. I would try to allow play to continue, with comments from me through the game in order for the players to know I was taking a keen interest in events around the play, and small increases in tension. I'd also try and allow small profanities (mostly cries of despair), while punishing abuse against the person. I think it helped that I played at a fairly decent standard (Northern Prem when it was the league below the Conference) and that I knew my way around the pitch. The overriding message from the local refs association was that the key to being a good ref was fitness. I always felt that they were missing a fundamental basic - that the fitness needed for you to keep up with play was only part of it, and that context was equally important.

                Comment


                  #9
                  The Refereeing Thread

                  Count me among the subscribers, I read last week's instalment with interest.

                  My (just turned) 18 year old son is into (I think) his fourth season of officiating. Most of his work in the first two seasons was refereeing (and for older age groups, on the line) at Carlisle United youth team games. He started doing local youth league games as well but after informing whoever appoints the refs that he wasn't available for the next three weekends, was deemed 'unreliable' and snubbed thereafter.

                  Anyway he has been well looked after by the local co-ordinator, who has eased him into open age football by getting him regular linesman appointments at County level (Saturday afternoon County League, and the County Cup) and occasionally at Northern Alliance level. In fact he's just called in to get changed into his suit for his game this afternoon (my son, not the co-ordinator).

                  He's at a bit of a crossroads now - he needs refereeing experience at open age level and that will mean the Sunday league slog, while continuing to do linesman on Saturdays. How much enthusiasm he maintains for that, now that his recent birthday has given him the keys to the adult world, remains to be seen.

                  My own impression of all of this is, despite the 'Respect' agenda, behaviour towards refs is still appalling, and it's a miracle that there are enough willing officials to keep grass roots football going.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    The Refereeing Thread

                    Gerontophile - I have indeed refereed the FA Cup final here in Bermuda (it is actually called that), as well as Charity Cup finals and the ironically named Friendly Cup final. I am the proud owner, well my 2 small children are, of several metal and plastic discs attached to a red, white and blue ribbon.

                    As for Cesar's post, my 2 main comments when trying to mentor refs is to work on fitness levels and communication. My point to them is how can you give a decision from 50 yards away and be certain you were correct? Talking to players, and I mean a brief word rather than a 5 min monologue, to tell them why you gave a certain call, or using your voice to indicate a corner or throw as well as arm signals, is as effective in the higher levels as well as in junior games. Plus, it is a quick and easy way to try and reduce dissent from players, some of which I believe is caused by frustration from an indecisive or uncommunicative ref.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      The Refereeing Thread

                      Bermuda Shorts wrote: As for Cesar's post, my 2 main comments when trying to mentor refs is to work on fitness levels and communication. My point to them is how can you give a decision from 50 yards away and be certain you were correct? Talking to players, and I mean a brief word rather than a 5 min monologue, to tell them why you gave a certain call, or using your voice to indicate a corner or throw as well as arm signals, is as effective in the higher levels as well as in junior games. Plus, it is a quick and easy way to try and reduce dissent from players, some of which I believe is caused by frustration from an indecisive or uncommunicative ref.
                      Great points. When you stop to think about it the four best attributes of a ref are:
                      1. Fitness - to be in the right place at the right time to make the calls.
                      2. Confidence - to be authoritative and command the respect of the players.
                      3. Good communication skills - to speak in a clear and concise manner.
                      4. Consistency - to call the game equally for both teams.

                      The refs were today, as ever abysmal. A couple of times one of the girls got hurt and was crying but rather than exercise judgment and stop the game they let it play on until coaches yelled at them to stop the game for the girl to receive treatment. Our teams girl was crying for what must have been over two minutes before the ref stopped the game.

                      These kids are honestly scared to assert themselves and I don't know why because the parents and coaches are not unduly critical of them if they even criticize them at all.

                      As far as mentoring goes I think it would be better for the league to pair a 40+ year old ref with a teenage rookie so that the senior ref can run the show and the youngster has a role model. Right now we have 2 x teenage refs and they both tend to be pretty sheepish.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        The Refereeing Thread

                        @Cesar. I used to notice this when my kids were playing rec soccer in the US, and before I'd trained as a ref - the communication was hopeless, and it was just as you describe, kids looking confused at every throw-in when a simple call would have sufficed. Unfortunately, when they processed refs through training (at least in my experience in the state of Maryland), the emphasis was almost purely on the laws of the game and getting as many refs as possible to pass the test at the end of the weekend. There was very little, or nothing, on game management and communication.

                        So yes, your (and Bermuda's) four points are pretty much spot on - the first game I ever reffed eight years ago, the (experienced) linesmen told me at half-time not to rely so much on the two assistants, and to cover more ground. The five-minute pep talk he gave me, outlining half a dozen areas for improvement, was way more useful than the three-day training course I'd just completed. You can't rely on training to cover even half of what it takes to be a referee, though. The only way to learn is on the job, game by game, and I still learn something new every single game, just as I did when I was still playing in my late 40s.

                        I try to communicate decisions both verbally and with hand signals (even though for some reason that is still not enshrined in the Laws - but it should be. It's not even covered, or encouraged, in training sessions). Sometimes a penalised player will ask sharply, "What was that for?" My favourite response - "You pushed him, held him and tripped him, pick any one of the three." Not always true, but it shuts them up.

                        @WFD - that's a real shame they shunned your son for non-availability, assuming he'd been mainly available up until that point. It's a tough one for the reffing bodies, though, especially when there's a shortage of refs. In Frankfurt we have to referee a minimum of 12 games per season (July-May) as part of getting the badge for the following year. I was expecting to get one game a weekend max., but I'm already on my 20th game today, and it's only late September. We've just trained 35 new and mainly young refs, but it takes several weeks to process their paper work before they can start, and then they all have to start out at the lowest level in the U11 leagues, and to be mentored and coached. I don't know what the loss rate will be from that batch, but I'd suspect well over 50% in the first couple of years.

                        Great yarns there from Bermuda. I'm a bit miffed, though - I reffed quite a few cup finals at various levels/tournaments in the US, and never once got a metal thingie on a ribbon. Bah.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          The Refereeing Thread

                          Vicarious Thrillseeker wrote: I'd also try and allow small profanities (mostly cries of despair), while punishing abuse against the person.
                          This too - we've mostly all played, and know how frustrating a game it is, especially for the less gifted. But I won't tolerate idiots screaming at other people, even if it's their own team-mate. Hated it as a player (unless it was the opposition fragmenting before my eyes), certainly won't put up with it as ref. If you let it go, it just gets worse. Sometimes it gets worse anyway and the game falls apart, and you agonise afterwards if you could have done more to prevent it.

                          I've done that thing of getting both captains together and telling them to tell their players to calm down. It works for about two minutes. It's like ordering an unruly kindergarten into silence just after they've ODed on jelly beans.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            The Refereeing Thread

                            I give you grief when I Don't like what you write so just to add -I really enjoyed reading your blog/, and the debate on here. I think the social communication side of refereeing is key.

                            I'd like to ask the refs here who they particularly admire on the National and international level, and why.

                            Thanks all.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              The Refereeing Thread

                              Thanks, N2.

                              Yesterday's game: Yellow leaves, yellow cards, mellow fruits and the smell of weed.

                              One incident I didn't recount there - in the first half there was an off-the-ball incident out of my sight line where a defending midfielder claimed with much passion and conviction that he'd been pulled to the ground. His captain yelled at him: "The referee's looking at the play, do you think he can look in four directions at once, you idiot?" Then they subbed him out for almost the whole of the rest of the game. I really like it when they preemptively take the morons out.

                              Comment


                                #16
                                The Refereeing Thread

                                OK, one for imp/Bermuda Shorts/anyone who officiates team sports.

                                You have been whistling a Women’s game [gender included for ease of pronouns and also plausibility of the next bit] that seems to have passed off completely without incident. Your cards have not so much stayed in your pocket as snuggled into a ball and fallen into a contented sleep.

                                However, at the final whistle one of the players approaches you and asks if she can have a quick word. This player is an adult woman of notably diminutive of stature, and she is unhappy that the opposition have been using the term “the short one” to each other when they were assigning their marking schemes. She points out that her shirt has a number on its back and suggests that could have been used to organise the defence rather than a glib physical description of her. Whilst this all sounds quite believable, you haven’t actually heard the alleged language used yourself.

                                The ‘quick chat’ happens whilst the teams are still hanging around the edge of the pitch after a game, grabbing a drink/collecting their kit/chatting to coaches etc. In theory everyone is still under your control.

                                Your impression is the complaining player does not want this to be in any way official. She seems to be mostly after you having a quick word with the opposition about their language.

                                What would you do next??

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  The Refereeing Thread

                                  Janik

                                  Essentially, you can't take any action against opposing players if you have not heard it yourself, nor was it reported to you by your (qualified)assistants. Law 12 states you can send someone off for "using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures". I would suggest that if you had heard it during the game, and could see the player was getting upset, it is not really classed as offensive etc, but I would speak with the opposition captain and tell them to cut it out. In the situation you gave, I might speak with the opponent's manager/coach quickly (and politely) to make the point that what is offensive to someone might not be to others, and perhaps if an official heard the comments, they make take action. In short (pardon the pun), I would acknowledge the point made but if I had not heard it, there is not a lot I can do. As I suspect a lot of refs will also say, why make things more difficult for you when you don't have to, especially after a quiet game, an all too rare occurrence.

                                  I have had a case in the past when a central defender, when marking his opposite number at several corners, would loudly exclaim "I've got Mr Bad Breath!". After 2 instances of this, where I could see the player clearly getting pissed off, I spoke with the defender and made it clear that any more comments would be met with a red card. This shut him up, especially after his captain also chimed in and told him to grow up.

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    The Refereeing Thread

                                    Excellent blog imp.

                                    I used to play as a keeper in a few games a year, amateur team my friend was involved in over in Hamilton but mainly just a few games in the summer organised with friends and guys we knew up in the works department of Edinburgh Uni.

                                    I'd dislocated my knee one summer and couldn't play, on the mend and mobile again but nowhere near ready to play.

                                    Went up to see one of the games and the ref hadn't turned up. I was mobile enough to cover the middle third of the pitch and agreed to do it. Tell you, it offers a new persepctive. Trying to read offsides without linesmen is hellish but what's more marked is the way people, to put it bluntly, lose it when they're playing football.

                                    Knew everybody on the park and it's marked how easily some of them will just flip their lid and start calling you all the cunts under the sun when you get something wrong. I'd done similar the summer before when I was beat by somebody feigning a diving header and punching the ball in, the referee missed it but as I say, new perspective.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      The Refereeing Thread

                                      RobM wrote: Tell you, it offers a new persepctive. Trying to read offsides without linesmen is hellish but what's more marked is the way people, to put it bluntly, lose it when they're playing football. Knew everybody on the park and it's marked how easily some of them will just flip their lid and start calling you all the cunts under the sun when you get something wrong.
                                      Every weekend offers me fascinating new insights into the human condition. Conclusion: it's fucked.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        The Refereeing Thread

                                        Totally agree imp. I was assessing a referee on Sunday afternoon. Beautiful day, easy game to ref, nothing contentious at all, all 3 officials working as a team and hardly noticeable. Game finished 2-0 to the better side. Halfway through the second half, the ref awarded a free-kick (correctly) for a nothing push in the centre circle. No player argued. The benches probably didn't even notice. One 'fan' sat in the stand behind me screamed at the top of his voice "you're a fucking joke ref, how could you give that, fucking idiot, I'll see you after the game". I have to admit I turned round, shook my head and mouthed 'arsehole' to him. Sometimes I despair...

                                        Comment


                                          #21
                                          The Refereeing Thread

                                          Taking this thread a little further down the path of becoming our own You Are The Ref, what do the experts think of this scenario?

                                          An attacker is fouled just outside the area. You see the offence, determine that you are going to give a free-kick and are bringing your whistle up to do so. At the same time the ball squirts free into the area, where another forward gets to it first and is promptly tripped by a lunging defender. Crucially this happens just before you manage to blow to give the original free-kick. So you give the penalty instead.

                                          Some of the defending team claim that you can't give the penalty as you had already blown for the earlier foul. They are wrong and easy to ignore. However a tricksier teammate (with better time sense) says that you can't give the penalty as you had stopped running and were bringing your whistle to your lips before the second foul happened, clearly having decided to give the free-kick. His team had seen this, so had stopped playing in response. He claims you can't now change your mind over that first offence, that once you have decided not to play an advantage that decision is irreversible.

                                          Does he have a point?

                                          Basically what this question boils down to is when does play go dead? When you make the decision to blow for an offence, or the fraction of a second later when you actually manage to physically do so?

                                          Comment


                                            #22
                                            The Refereeing Thread

                                            There is an even more convoluted version where you are not quick thinking enough on your feet, so despite blowing after the second foul happens you don't point to the spot but instead initially signal the free-kick.
                                            But let's leave that one aside for a moment.

                                            Comment


                                              #23
                                              The Refereeing Thread

                                              I wouldn't have blown yet for the first foul if the ball had squirted free and there was any possibility at all of an advantage. In this case, bad reffing if they didn't wait a second or two. As the whistle came just after the second foul, it should just have been a case of selling it - you tell the defending team that your whistle was in your mouth ready to blow for the first foul in case there was no advantage (as it should have been), but you waited out the advantage situation which resulted in a penalty kick.

                                              If they continue to argue, tell them to fuck off (in so many words or gestures). You don't have to justify to the players when the whistle's in your mouth. Why are they even looking at that instead of concentrating on the game?

                                              The more convoluted scenario - you're in trouble, because you're going to have to convince the attacking team of a poor decision. "The late whistle was for the first foul." They're not going to buy that. Just be quick making the advantage signal or shouting, "Play on - advantage!"

                                              Related case - I was linesman on a boys U19 game in the US a few years back. Forward was clean through on goal, keeper came out the area and fouled him, the ref blew for a free-kick, and then reached into his back pocket for the red card for the keeper. But the forward had already steadied the ball and taken the free kick, trying to score quickly. He screwed it up completely (in a rush, he skewered it out towards the corner flag), the ref let play continue, the keeper went unpunished.

                                              I brought it up at the next training session, and there were, as usual, all sorts of opinions. My understanding of the laws is that if you're going to give a card (yellow or red), then you have to stop play (or in this case, call it back) to hand out the requisite punishment. So the ref should have whistled, given the red as planned, then allowed the free-kick to be taken once all was calm again, and a new keeper was on the pitch.

                                              Others argued (and they had a point) that the forward had wanted to score, and thought that would be better for his team than the goalkeeper being sent off (if he even noticed the ref reaching for his pocket). Once he messed up the chance, though, the keeper was effectively reprieved.

                                              [Janik - love these kind of situations, btw, so keep them coming. Our monthly online tests throw up all kinds of obscure stuff. I'll post some of them at some point.]

                                              Comment


                                                #24
                                                The Refereeing Thread

                                                Essentially what imp said in his first paragraph. Play is not 'dead' until the ref has blown their whistle, hence the adage 'play to the whistle'. A more experienced ref would always wait that second or two to see how play develops, a case of better late and right than quick and wrong. As for the extra scenario, if you did blow up for the first infringement, at the very least have the balls to admit your mistake in not letting play develop. In my experience, most players like a bit of humility from a ref from time to time.

                                                Comment


                                                  #25
                                                  The Refereeing Thread

                                                  Bermuda Shorts wrote: In my experience, most players like a bit of humility from a ref from time to time.
                                                  Definitely - you can really calm a player down if you have a quick, quiet word of apology when you didn't give a foul, but you can maybe tell from the reaction of either one or both players that you might have screwed up. Along the lines of, "Sorry if I missed something there - I didn't see it. I'll keep an eye on him/her [the opponent]."

                                                  Yesterday I had coaches at a boys U15 game screaming from both sidelines. Yelled at their players throughout, yelled, "Referee!" at the slightest contact, even if I'd already blown for a foul. These people should be kept as far away from youth football as possible.

                                                  Comment

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