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Andrew Castiglione
Founder of Ken Aston Referee Society

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Make Referees think about ways they can diffuse dissent on the field of play.

It is important to note that the advice given here is not necessarily the ‘official line’, but nevertheless, is used by many Referees when controlling players.

Key phrases (‘one-liners’) and tips that Referees can use and find work for
them in different situations that can occur during a game when tying to...
Diffuse Dissent.

The trick here is to keep your ’one-liners’ short, and vary them when you can. Dissent is a difficult thing to control, and the advice given here should help you think about ways that you can use. Don’t try and remember, or use all of these tips in one go. Use one or two new ones each game, vary them slightly to suit your personality, and you will soon find that you have made up your own ‘one-liners’ to suit each incident. The main aim of the ‘one-liners’ is to diffuse the situation, to allow you to give the perpetrator a ‘rollicking’ rather that caution them. Albeit that you will sometimes need to show them a ‘yellow card’.

‘One-liner’s will depend on the character of the Referee. You will need to develop those methods that personally suit your personality. In other words, you will need to be able to ’carry-off’ these methods without looking as though they are choreographed.

For example, a very simple on-liner that I often use is "Shut up!"

That’s it – BUT there is a method in applying this simple phrase. When play is stopped, and you want to impart this strong message to a dissenting player, move away to an empty part of the field of play at least 15 yards away or more from the player you want to talk to. As you are walking to this position, say out loudly "Come here number 5" (or whatever number he is!). Moving to this position will allow the player to vent off some of his steam by the time he gets to you. Keep your eyes downwards, and when he gets near to you, simply lift your head, make eye contact and simply and quietly say to him "Shut up!" and then immediately walk away to your new position in readiness to restart play. This gives a clear message to the player, and to all those watching. It also allows the Referee to cool down himself and impart a strong message of quiet confidence and control. This method is more suitable to those Referees who have a strong bearing and a more dominant character. It would not be any good (for instance) for a new Referee, or youth Referee to try this method.

These tips are not exhaustive, and are here to give Referees some food for thought. Referees are encouraged to use their own methods and ‘one-liners’. The Referee must always be polite and NEVER swear or berate players.

One-liners and tips you can use (with a smile) without having to stop play to talk to the perpetrator.

- 1. "Not that old ‘chestnut’ again, can’t you think of anything more original"?
(This is a good 'one-liner' to reply to the players' old favorite comment such as "You must be joking Ref.!")

- 2. A ‘stare’ is a very good tool when the player is some distance away from you. This lets him know that you have heard what he said, and that you are aware of him! Do this when the ball is out of play, so that you don’t lose concentration on the game. It works a treat, and you can do it even if the player is at the other end of the field of play.

If the player is not looking at you (this is because he knows you have spotted him, and he is trying to avoid eye contact with you) - his eyes will eventually meet yours – and no words are needed. Stare at him for about 5 seconds. A slight shake of your head from side to side will also strengthen your message to him.

- 3. In addition to this, when you have engaged the players’ eyes, another tip is to use body language. Use your hand and mime the ‘zip your mouth’ movement. I.e. pretend that you are zipping your mouth closed.

This is a very good way impart your views (without words) over long (or even short) distances on the field of play.

- 4. "If I wanted to have an afternoon of nagging, I would have stayed at home".

- 5. "Stop moaning and get on with it."

- 6. A wry smile as you run by, is also most disconcerting to a player. This tells him that you have heard him, but think his comments are childish.

- 7. Use one hand to ‘brush away the fly’. In other words, use your arm and hand to wave away the dissent.

- 8. A simple shake of the head whilst looking at the player is another simple method of putting the player ‘in his pace’.

One-liners and tips you can use (with a smile) when play has stopped and you wish to talk to the perpetrator.

As mentioned above, the trick is for Referees to accept that football is a very emotive game, and passions will always run high. When dealing with diffusing dissent when play is stopped, and when you want to impart a warning message to a dissenting player, you must give that player a moment or two to ‘cool down’. You can do this by moving away to an empty part of the field of play at least 15 yards away or more from the player you want to talk to.

As you are walking to this position, say out loudly "Come here number 5" (or whatever number he is!).

Moving to this position will allow the player to vent off some of his steam by the time he gets to you. As the player approaches, if you anticipate that he is approaching you in a manner that suggests that he will take some stopping as he approaches you. Tell him to "calm down", "slow down", "keep a distance away" or any other verbal warning that you can think of to that effect. Do not put the whistle to your mouth (unless you want to lose more teeth than is necessary under the circumstances). At the same time, use your 'body language' by holding out both of your hands palms forward (like shooing cows back) and gesture at the player to slow down. Do not stand still at first when you are doing this, else you are likely to get stampeded. Use a bit of Law 18 Common sense, and gain a few extra moments by moving backwards a few more steps whilst making the warning actions just mentioned. Do not take too many steps backwards, because there comes a moment when you have to make a stand and show the approaching player that you are in charge and will not be intimidated. When you reach this moment - 'stick to your guns' - stand firm and erect, and then say your ‘one-liner’.

1. "I didn’t call you over here for you to give ME a lecture".

2. "If you continue to disagree with my decisions, I have no choice but to take action against you". It is important to note – do not say " The next time that I have to speak to you, it will be to caution you". This will put the Referee in a difficult position, and will leave him with no leeway but to implement the caution the next time he speaks to this player. Referees should never ‘set out their stall’, by threatening cautions next time around!

3. One exception to the above, that I personally I use, when I "really do mean that I will caution this player" the next time he misbehaves: -

"The next time you so much as fart in the rest of the game, you will be going in my book".

Once again, those Referee characters that can impart this strong, final and somewhat humorous message should only use this line.

4. "I’m giving you a few moments to calm down. Count to 10.

OK?…………………………. Then let’s get on with it".

Say the above line to the player as he approaches you. This is a useful line to diffuse an irate player. And one, which I use in every game.

Put both your arms down in front of you at about 45 degrees, with fingers pointing upwards palms facing the oncoming player. This body action tells the player to calm down, and can be clearly seen by anyone out of earshot.

5. "Are you OK? Calm down a bit. You should see your face!"

This is a useful line to diffuse a player whose eyes are ‘bulging out on stalks’. It usually ends in a smile from the player. I.e. you have broken the spell of dissent. You can then ask him to behave himself.

How you deal with dissent around you rather than coming from one particular individual.

- 1. When you have given a free kick, move away swiftly to a new position. Staying near the area of the free kick will invite dissenting comments. Players will never (or very rarely) run after you, if you’re quick enough. There will of course be occasions when you will need to remain near the area of a free kick (ceremonial free kicks, and when a player has been injured, or when you anticipate confrontation between opposing players.

- 2. When players (as a whole) are giving the Referee open ‘corporate’ dissent, the Referee can:

- (a) Shout out loud enough for everyone to hear: "Get on with the football lads!"

- (b) Stop the game (or when play has naturally stopped) call the both captains together, and say:

"If your players continue with open dissent, I have no option but to apply the letter of the Law"

- (c) When open dissent is increasing, one tip is to stop play for every foul, no matter how small. Do not allow ANY advantage until the players have calmed down. Keep blowing your whistle until they get the message. Peep, peep, and peep for every infringement. If you allow advantage to flow during a tetchy game, it will undoubtedly cause you much more trouble. Advantage is applied when a player has been fouled, and play is allowed to continue because the fouled player (or his team) gains more of an advantage by continuing play, rather that restarting play with a free kick. When players are angry, or are openly showing dissent, there is a great danger of further fouls and retribution occurring if a Referee allows advantage to flow during these periods. Once the players have settled down, the Referee can consider applying advantage once again in the game.

- 3. Awarding Offside can invariably open up a tirade of comments from players. A useful tip for Referees (when the Referee is near the scene of the offside) is to blow the whistle long and very loud. At the same time, move away from the scene of the offside. This action has two effects. Firstly, the Referee cannot hear the dissent, and secondly, neither can anyone else! This tip can also be used when awarding free kicks.

Dealing and punishing dissent is another subject. The advice given on this page is aimed to make Referees think about the different ways of diffusing dissent. It is not meant to be an alternative way to properly punish dissent. All Referees are individuals – and as such, will need to develop their own ways in controlling players. These ideas may hint at what can be done to ease the pressure for a Referee in a game.

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Page updated on... Monday, August 25, 2014 @ 23:30:44 -0700 PM-GMT
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