The Memories & Spirit of the Game, as only Ken Aston could teach it...
Enjoy, your journey here on...
Andrew Castiglione
Founder of Ken Aston Referee Society

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1. Turn a Deaf Ear

By Julian Carosi - Melksham R.A. Society

I can' help it - honestly.

The Referee did tell me in his pre-match brief to, "Not get involved with the crowd".

This is an FA Vase appointment, and well above my normal level. The home team breaks away for an attack late in the first half. The ball is pumped up field towards me. I'm well in line with the last defender. The home attacker, who is also in line with the last defender, turns and scampers away to score what turns out to be the solitary winning goal.

"I can' help it - honestly"

Out of a crowd of about 100 plus spectators, I just happen to have stood behind me (about 20 yards down from the half way line) a pair of Away team supporters - who until now have been anonymous - but not any more.

For some reason, one of them in particular, seems to have become the country's leading expert in the Laws of the Game. At the same time, he also becomes the leading light on being able to have more swear words in a sentence than one would think possible for our native understanding of the English language.

"You got a be ******* joking lingo, he was ^****** off-side. You useless ******* ****"

You get the drift by now - all these lovely expletives being breathed out in a fire of abuse as I make my way back to the starting position, which, just as luck would have it, is right in front of this pair of pilchards!

His pundit pal brings up the reinforcements by also lobbing in a couple of firecrackers such as:

" You're a coward", " No wonder you've never been here before?". And so as not to be outdone by his mate " You're a ******* disgrace".

Does this ring a bell with you ?

On the outside, I'm a cucumber dressed in black short sleeves and shorts. On the inside I'm a spitting pan of frying greasy chips, waiting just to splutter my fat over the pair of pitch-side cuckoos behind me.

Suddenly déjà vu - a flash of my past life illuminates itself before me - 1997 assessment: " Late in the second half, after you had stopped play for an offside, you were seen to have a verbal confrontation with a spectator. I would suggest that you refrain from this type of confrontation with spectator, or speak to a duty official and ask him to talk to the spectator."

How was I to know that the Assessor was stood right next to that spectator?

"I feel like a moving target, with constant Scud missiles
loaded with vitreous warheads being projected in my direction."

Another flash of lightening - this time for real. The clouds open up, and down comes the rain in a torrent of counter- attack. Lovely jubbley, it is a very hot humid day and the rain is a relief. The pair of Sergeants, who have literally been breathing down my neck, move back into the protection of the stand - but not for long. The torrent of rain is soon replaced by the torrent of pain.

Please Ref., I only want to take a quick look at these pilchards, just a small glare is all I'm asking. Maybe just a roll of my eyes upwards to show them what I think about their behavior. No - I should refrain from these thoughts, and concentrate 100% on the game.

As I move gracefully up and down the line, I notice that the abuse is only hurled at me as I am moving up and down past these two marksmen. I feel like a moving target, with constant and endless Scud missiles loaded with vitreous warheads being projected in my direction. But I must be too fast for them, because the more I ignore them, the more Scuds are thrown. I navigate nimbly through the cross-fire with a smirk on my face.

"The floodgates of Hades opened up."

Funnily enough, I soon notice that the only way to achieve a cease-fire is to stand right in front of the enemy fire. They seem to use this period for reloading - else they really are cowards! They are very close, and I can feel their eyes marking cross hairs on the back of my shirt - and all this going on in my head when I'm concentrating 100% on the game in front of me. Honest Ref., I am concentrating.

So as soon as the Ref. turns away, I'm thinking,

"There's no way these pair of pilchards are going to get away with this".

Every time the last defender moves to a position nearly adjacent to these gentlemen, I move my 47 year old, 6 foot, 15 stone hunk of ' past the sell by date' body, as near as I can get to them, and in the most obstructive viewing position, without losing my 100% concentration of the game - honest Ref.

As I scurry away to TRY and keep up with play (the gentlemen have reminded me politely that I have failed this obligation on numerous occasions as I fly past them), I am sorry to say that my very, very muddy and wet boots, through no intervention of myself!, just happened to spray the previously clean and dry Majors behind me with a shin full of that fat that had so long been boiling over inside me.

Well -as you can imagine, the floodgates of Hades opened up. This couple of 'man-eaters', sorry I mean 'lino-eaters' had not been expecting this addition to their Saturday afternoon feast of football. One up for me, and all whilst keeping 100% focused on the game - honest Ref.

The game ends, and I receive a draft obituary from my none to pleased friends behind me, who seem to have been afflicted with indigestion, as they are still burping hot air in my direction. Must be that chip fat!

I meet the Ref. and we make our way back to the changing room. I allow myself the one momentary lack of concentration throughout the game, by taking a quick look at the empty missile launchers who were now eyeing laser beams of deadly light in my direction.

"All right lads? Any problems", says the Ref. as we enter the sanctuary of the Referee's nuclear bunker.

" No problem Ref. " say I.

" No, I didn't really hear them, I just turned a deaf ear,

I was concentrating too much on the game mate"... Honest Ref.!

As we enter the packed Club House for our after match drink and sandwiches, who should be in my line of escape as I make my way to the sandwich table with my tottering glass of very full beer? Yes you guessed it, Saddam and Milosevic discussing plans for a counter attack with their beleaguered troops.

As I step gingerly across this seated minefield, I feel my pint leaning and being magnetically drawn towards this pair of spluttering flamethrowers. A large kit bag is conveniently placed as to perpetrate a totally innocent accident that would instantly quench the flames. It is very tempting ........................

BUT NO, my concentration is 100% (honest Ref.) and I side step this booby trap and make my way to the 'pilchard' sandwiches; somehow I don't really feel hungry any more.

A Referee colleague who had been watching the game, introduced himself, and said, " You weren't half getting a lot of stick from those two old codgers".

" No, I didn't really hear them mate. I just turned a deaf ear, I was concentrating too much on the game mate". Honest Ref.!

2. Why can't we have a qualified Referee for all of our Youth games?

By Julian Carosi - Wiltshire Class 1 Referee. (Article for Youth Football Essex)

OK, let me set the scene, I am 10 minutes into the first half of the Under 10's Youth Cup competition, and so far I have had very little Refereeing to do. Suddenly, for no discernible reason at all, little 'Bradley's dad has decided to continually walk up and down, two yards inside the pitch, and right in front of all the other parents on the touch line.

"I say walk, but what I really mean is - have you ever seen those athletes on television who participate in 'walking' races? Not so much a walk, but a sort of funny shuffling pace.

Bradley's dad is oblivious to everything but the blue mist that has descended in front of his eyes. Anyway, I am totally distracted from the game action itself. Little Bradley casts some furtive and frightened looks towards his dad. His eyes are beginning to glaze over, his head drops. Bradley's dad continues with his funny walk and tirade of meaningless instructions to his son, interspersed with the usual pleasant expletives for the Referee, every time a decision is made against his son's team.

Bradley mumbles, "Oh shut up dad". I' m glad that Bradley's dad cannot hear him - I dread to think of the consequences. But Bradley is right SHUT UP DAD!!!!!!!!!

Are you beginning to get the picture?

Officiating at 'Youth' games can sometimes be likened to being attacked with a double-edged sword, no only do you have the dissenting players to contend with, you are very often given the extra bonus of parent abuse! And all for no extra cost.

"So it is not all doom and gloom."

After a very long-playing career at local level, I have now been refereeing at local level, in the English County of Wiltshire for a number of years. Why did I decide to become a Referee? Probably the same reason as everyone else who is involved with football - because I love the game, and for no better reason.

The views expressed throughout this article are my own personal views. They have no relation to any Referees Society or County Football Association. Nevertheless, it is an insight into some of the real problems that we Referees have to face. There are a number of Referees who are totally committed to Youth football, and I admire them for their fortitude. A close Referee colleague of mine, is the local County Youth Referees Appointment Secretary, and he is one of the best Referees in the County totally dedicated to Refereeing both Youth and Senior football. There are also very dedicated bands of Youth Team officials and parents dedicated to improving the relationships within youth football – so it is not all doom and gloom.

But officiating in youth matches is not my 'cup of tea'. - And I'll explain why.

Refereeing can be a thankless task. When you travel to a game, you are mostly alone against 22 players 6 or more substitutes, managers, spectators and the Parents. This role can be very daunting, and is not for the faint hearted. Contrary to popular belief, Referees are human. When first arriving at the ground, we like to be sociable, yet at the same time; we must not be seen to favor a particular team. This means that Referees can sometimes seem aloof. This is one way of distancing ourselves from being over-friendly, because experience has told us that no matter how friendly you are, it only takes one incident in the game to turn pleasant everyday people into what can best be described as 'monsters out of control’.

"It’s not really my cup of tea"

We all belong to a Referees' Society. We all organize three of four Referee training weekends throughout each year. I assist our dedicated Section Chairman in delivering this training. This takes up the whole of Friday, Saturday and Sunday on weekends. The training is provided free of charge, and the instructors are NOT paid. Of the approximately 50 candidates per session, about half have come from a Youth Football background, some of them being parents, some players, some managers, some Club Linesmen etc.....

In a normal year, the Local Regional Referees’ Society will have trained up to about 40 or 50 new candidates. At a very rough guess - about half of them (say 25) actually go on to start Refereeing, the remainder being content with just learning the Laws. After a year or so, we will be very lucky to have 10 out of the 25, who are still Refereeing. The others will have already decided that the abuse is just not worth it. Counteract this, with the ever-increasing departure of our experienced Referees, and you will begin to understand why there are ‘just not enough Referees to go around’.

A number of our candidates are teenagers, who go on to officiate in the local youth games. These new recruits are the seeds of the next Generation of Referees. They need all the encouragement and protection that can be provided. Some of these 12 or 13-year-old Referees are very efficient and confident. I would never have dreamed, or dared, or been brave enough to be a football Referee at that age. They can only be admired.

Regardless of all the recent Law changes, Football is still a very emotive physical contact sport; it thrives on high passion and emotions - long may it stay that way. I am a great believer, that the mistakes made by Referees (and players come to that) are an actual integral part of the game itself. Take away the mistakes, and you might as well stay in and watch your kids playing draughts. Nevertheless, Referees are very genuine people, striving to make little or no mistakes in each game. But it is impossible to be perfect, and to be honest; anyone who tries to be is a fool. I always aim to be relaxed and fully concentrating – and most of all FAIR. Like the majority of Referees, I'll sometimes hold my hands up - we do make mistakes, but we also try very very hard, on the field and off the field, to do our very best. There is a whole Referees' world apart from the game itself. We hold Society meetings, seminars, and conferences. We get involved with training, officiating at friendly matches, attending disciplinary hearings, sorting out our masses of correspondence, providing information (For instance, I have added a new Referees' Training Section on the Web site) etc. etc...... The 90 or minutes you see are just the sharp ends of the wedge as far as a Referee's responsibilities and freely volunteered time is concerned. And sometimes, we even get time to spend with our family at the weekend!

"There are ‘just not enough Referees to go around".

There is no easy solution for improving the relationship between Referees, players, parents and Team officials. The malaise is symptomatic of society in general. Manners have long been forgotten or not taught. Respect - well, that no longer exists these days. That is not to say that we can all do our own little bit to improve both our own lifestyle and ‘football’.

How difficult would it be for Team managers’ to insist that youth players shake the Referee's hand after every game - especially if the game has not been to their liking? Why can't the team managers always welcome the Referee cordially, and thank him after the game, irrespective of the result. I have had many an irate manager or player venting their anger at me after games. I'm big enough (6ft and 15 stone) to look after myself, but I do worry about our youth Referees and the increasing departure of our experienced long standing Referees. I too, have considered ‘packing it all in’ on several occasions – all due to abusive behavior received whilst officiating.

I am not advocating that football should only be played by perfectly behaved players in front of robotic parents - of course vent your emotions, but not in an openly aggressive and abusive manner. Our children will be the ones who suffer in the long run.

In a normal season, I will officiate in 60 plus football matches, of which maybe 5 are Youth games. And to be honest, on the whole, I do sometimes enjoy the pure football (football for enjoyment’s sake) played at youth level - you can't beat the smiling face of an eight year old who has just scored his team's winning goal. There are other Referees (thankfully) whose games are nearly all Youth fixtures, and I admire them for it. But like I said before, 'it's not really my cup of tea', but I wish it was??????? I'll stick to the grown-ups - they’re bad enough, but at least I only have a single edged sword to contend with!

As you travel through life, we try and do our own little bit to improve humanity. I can assure you that Referees are a totally dedicated, underestimated and above all very human group of people, corporately trying to improve their lot!


3. Isn't it funny how the Referee always loses the match for the losing team!

By Julian Carosi

Let me set the scene...

The score is Red team 0 Green Team 0; the time is 89 minutes and 55 seconds into the game. The Referee has been excellent throughout the game, making all the correct decisions, using common sense to allow advantage and play to flow - and has not missed a thing! There have been no Cautions or Sending-offs to administer, and the players (particularly the Red team) are generally 'chatty' and friendly with the Referee. The ball is in the center circle and still in play, and a Red defender who is standing in his own penalty area takes a sudden dislike to an opponent who is standing alongside, and decides that an imprint of his forehead would look nice on the opponents nose. As I said before, the Referee who 'has not missed a thing' sees the incident and blows his whistle to stop play. The Referee looks at his watch to double-check that the game has not yet ended and correctly awards a penalty kick to the Green team. The Red defender is sent-off, and (obviously) the Green team scores and wins the game.

"You lost us the game Ref."

As soon as the Referee blows for full time, the Red team players, managers and just about anyone else (who see the Red mist descending before their eyes) make a 'beeline' for the Referee, with the sole purpose of venting their frustrations at losing the game. The usual expletives normally fired towards the Referee are as follows (of course I have omitted the obligatory foul language that accompanies such outbursts:

1. "You were rubbish Ref., you had no control of the game".

2. "You're a cheat and I'm going to report you to the authorities".

3. "You haven't got a clue have you?"

4. "We don't want you refereeing us again".

5. "You must be joking". (That's my favorite, and one that I am beginning to tire off - at least let there be some originality).


6. "You lost us the game Ref., you're ******* useless".

Does this 'ring a bell' with you? The type of match incident doesn't really matter; neither does the time or the score. The fact that the Referee made a decision (whether it was deemed the correct decision or not) is the catalyst for common sense and reasoning to instantly disappear from the offending team players, managers, coaches and spectators. Conversely, the Green team contingent thinks the Referee is the 'best thing since sliced bread'.

"You lost us the game". What does that actually mean?

What it really means is that:

1. The Referee actually took the penalty kick and scored the winning goal for the Green team.

2. The Referee was the Red defender, and purposefully rearranged the face of the Green defender.

3. Or conversely, the Referee was the Green attacker, who purposefully antagonized the Red defender, knowing full well that a penalty would be awarded to the Green team if the Red attacker hit him.

4. The Referee really did not have a clue, and the WHOLE game was officiated badly from the start to the finish.

5. The Referee is the brother of the Green team manager.

6. The Referee is an ex-player of the Green Team.

7. The Referee is prejudiced against the color of 'Red'.

8. The Referee is a 'Green peace' supporter!

9. The Referee was the Red team goalkeeper, and purposefully let in the penalty, which he could have easily saved.

10. The Referee had placed a huge bet with the local 'bookmaker' that the Green team would win 1-0 at odds of 100 to 1.

Of course, the Referee was none of these things. But you can bet your 'bottom dollar' that all of the 'Red' contingent would certainly vote for number 4, even though for 89 minutes and 55 seconds of the game, they though that the Referee was ‘great’.

Contrary to popular belief, Referees are a hard working (mostly on a volunteer basis), genuine, caring, sensitive, fair, committed and a very human bunch of people. They are constantly berated from just about every quarter for being 'cheats', of not knowing the Laws, and for lacking consistency. The core Referees are intelligent enough to understand their role in the game, and caring enough to put such attacks into perspective. It is no wonder that Referees have to retreat into their shells after controversial games. One facet of Refereeing that I learned very quickly as a novice some years ago, is not to discuss game or decision points with anyone immediately after (or during) the game. Emotions invariably override decent human behavior. Players are not really interested in listening to your explanations, because they have already made their own minds that you (the Referee) are a 'plonker'. Immediate post-match confrontations are always (and let me repeat ALWAYS) a one-way frustration vent. I have tried on several occasions to explain my decisions to irate players and managers, but it ALWAYS ends up as a one-way passage of information, with your comments being completely ignored and tossed away in an irrational manner - the Referee would be better off talking to the goal posts. Immediate post match confrontations only lead to further trouble. That is why Referees retreat to the sanctuary of their changing rooms as soon as possible. This allows frustrations to calm down and prevents further reports having to be written - and we have enough of those to contend with already. Nevertheless, Referees are quite happy to talk over match points with reasonably behaved persons – if there be such things!

"The Referee would be better off talking to the goal post".

Accusations that Referees cannot face up to their mistakes, or are too frightened to confront angry remonstrators are TOSH!. Experience has taught us that we are almost on our own; no party ever 'sticks up for the Referee'.

Try Refereeing a local derby on a Sunday morning when all 22 players are trying to maim each other, and the managers are throwing verbal expletives of a dubious nature at you throughout the game, and the players are constantly moaning at your decisions, and the rain is pouring down, and where you are invariably the only match official on a ground in the middle of the countryside, and where you have no physical protection at all, and everyone is after your blood - then tell me that Referees are not Brave enough or 'man' enough to confront and control society's degenerate spawn.

Football is about mistakes. The speed of the modern game makes instant decision making even more difficult. Referees do acknowledge mistakes on the field of play, but the Laws only allows us to change a decision if play has not been restarted. I know that I am wasting my breath - but Referees do not purposefully make wrong decisions. The game action is very fast; the spectators do not know what players say to Referees as they are running past. They do no hear the frustrations of the players as they confront the Referee. It takes some courage to control and face up to 22 fit athletes (some not quite so fit!) full of emotion and anger - and still retain 100 percent concentration and control of the game action. Try it yourself before you pass judgment.

Football is a very emotive game - without such passion, it would not be the game that it is. I do not advocate ironing out all of the emotional 'peaks and troughs' experience by all of us during a game. But respect, understanding, acceptance of decisions, good behavior - must be targets that all of us aim to achieve in life as well as in football. The fact that players and Referees do make mistakes (yes Referees are honest enough to admit that) actually forms part of the game itself. Take away the mistakes, and you might as well stay at home and weed the garden.

A Referees decision - whether it is deemed right or wrong - is actually the RIGHT decision.

Law 5 - The Referee, states that:

"The decisions of the Referee regarding facts connected with play are final."

That statement cannot be clearer. If players, team officials and spectators accept and respect that, then things can only improve.

Very often during games, players will run alongside me and say (mostly in a friendly way) "That was the wrong decision Ref.".

My usual reply to players is, "Rather than worry about my mistakes, you would be better off trying to pass to your colleagues rather than keep giving the ball away to the opposition".

In other words - we all make mistakes - accept this, stop moaning and just get on with it! Wouldn't it be novel if Referees were allowed to castigate players when they make a 'hash' of scoring, or when fail to control an easy pass.

From the Referee: "That was a rubbish pass, I could have done better with my eyes closed! are you blind?"

It would be great to have a qualified Referee sitting on every TV panel - the Referee could then lambaste the team managers for tactics that did not work, or to castigate players for missing open goals, or taking bad corner kicks or for making foul tackles. We would be very busy! Of course this will never happen. Referees are easy targets for vigilantes, and Referees can't fight back - because whatever they do they are wrong.

But in reality, a Referees decision

Whether it is deemed right or wrong - is actually the RIGHT decision.

The Laws of football are authorized by FIFA (Federation International de Football Association). The Referees did not make up the Laws. If a player has to be sent-off during a game, it is usually blatantly obvious to all concerned that player has committed one of the seven sending-off offences. Yet why do players and managers always (ALWAYS) dispute every sending-off?

It is because:

(a) They invariably do not know the Laws of the game - how many players and managers do you know, who purchase a new copy of the Laws at the start of every season - not many if any! Whereas, nearly every Referee will receive a new copy every year, along with any Law amendments.

(b) Emotions override normal behavior. Referees know this, and do actually allow a great deal of leeway when confronting passion in a game. For example: (and you will probably have already heard this many times before) 'if a Referee sends-off every player who swears during a game, then you would not have a game to watch'. The Referees task is to balance the Laws, common sense and the emotions of all concerned. It is a difficult task in which we sadly stand-alone.

Comments such as…

"I thought the officiating was absolutely miserable on Saturday, and I don't think that many players would disagree".

Is in effect a useful vent for releasing emotions, and are usually voiced by players who have been disciplined during the game. What else can such words positively serve? I do not advocate that such comments should not be made; on the contrary, peoples' perspective of life (and football) is always interesting. I suppose such comments can only be seen in a negative light - and will serve to add fuel to the next confrontation - where I suppose the Referee will again get the blame for any retaliatory action between players (further fuelled by the above player's comment of course). If a player gets a broken leg in the next confrontation - I suppose the comments will have played no part? And it was the Referee’s entire fault!

To attain credibility, an argument should always be balanced. For example, how did the players behave in the game? Are they big enough to shoulder some of the responsibility? or was it just the Referee who was playing football by himself? How did the managers or team captains help the Referee control the unruly players? (no help at all I warrant); on the contrary, managers usually encourage confrontation and uncontrolled passion. By all means have a moan - but be big enough to carry some of the blame yourself. How does your behavior affect your own children? Is this how you want them to behave and react? I hope not - else we might as well all give in now!

It doesn't matter whether you think the Referee for your game is useless or not, or if your interpretation of an incident is different to his, or if the decision is right or wrong. If you think you can do better - then try it out, you probably would not last five minutes. How would you cope with the constant lambasting and griping? how would you like it if the Referee made fun of you (the player) throughout the game? As a Referee, would you just ignore such action and Referee the game as though you were in some sort of protective soundproof bubble? Think back to your game as a player, did you constantly moan at the Referee? - if the answer is yes, then it is you and not the Referee who was "absolutely miserable" or is this how you think football should be played? If it is, then the Referee is not really needed, and the players are very welcome to fight it out amongst themselves!

"The Referees did not make up the Laws".

In England, the Football Association has set up a weekly 'video panel' comprising of former experienced Referees, managers and players. The panel has been formulated to represent the professional game, and will look at video evidence such as 'mass confrontations' between players, and also to look at individual discipline offences with the view of disciplining players whose indiscretions have been missed by the match officials. I'm all for punishing guilty players, but the video panel should not be used to undermine the authority of Refereeing decisions. As yet, it is the disciplinary commission (not the video panel) who is responsible for 'dishing out' the punishment. Nevertheless, Referees can use the video evidence to review their disciplinary decisions -and are 'man enough' to have done so on several occasions. I do not necessarily agree with the use of video evidence - the one saving grace is that it will never be used for the 99% of Referees who officiate at local level. I suppose that one-day, we might even have video evidence that will be used to change the result of a game, because the player who scored the goal was 10 centimeters offside. I think we are heading down a very slippery slope with the utilizations of technology - I for one will certainly 'pack it in' (and so will many other Referees) if our decisions are constantly overruled by the opinion of some glorified panel.

Perhaps one day we will even get to the situation where a game is not marred by any controversial Refereeing decisions at all, and everyone agrees where every decision made by the Referee on. Let’s face it, that really would be worth a comment or two - but I do not think there is much chance of that happening.

4. The Lemmings' Roller coaster is the most popular Soccer Fun Park attraction!

By Julian Carosi

Jump on, why don't you, it's free. There are no Laws to worry about. You can say just what you like. Bad language is a must - the 'badder the better', eff-off as much as you like. You have no fear of being castigated for racist remarks. Go on, 'gob' at the on-looking crowd, it's fun - especially when 'it lands'. Put two fingers up to the World. Throw a bottle or two - it doesn't matter how much injury you do (you won't see it anyway). Tear up the seat that you are sitting on - or better still rip it out and sling it at the policeman. Urinate down the seat in front of you - that's really smart, and saves you having to miss any of the action. Throw a Nazi salute or two; this really gets the punters going. Throw all of your rubbish to the winds. Try and hit the 'lino' with a coin or two, you can afford it. Join the plethora of armchair experts whose sole aim is to 'finish off football altogether - because that is what is happening. Bash the Referee go on, cause you know it's BIG to do so, and they (apart from this one) will not retaliate. You like to feel 'big' important and noticed, and what better way than slag off! And to be a Pratt, and to demonstrate that you can't spell or write properly on 'message boards! Forget about reason and decency, they are not needed here. Go on, do just what you like, the 'badder the better'. Your safe in your little World - enjoy it while you can!

And why not be a Pratt, every other ‘Lemming’ seems to be.

I suppose if anyone committed any one of the above offences to you personally, or openly called you a cheat, you would just quietly take it all lying down. Some chance! More likely someone would get 'decked'. And just why would you do that? Because you are the Law, and the Law must be upheld. And that is exactly why the Laws of our society were created - to give guidelines and to punish perpetrators, but not by 'decking' .............


And eventually you will meet your match. But I suppose that's 'big' as well.

Football is such a 'piddley' unimportant facet in the grand scheme of life. People are becoming dangerously delusional into thinking that it is the center of the Universe, or the most important thing around since 'George Best', or the engine that drives everything else. It is a simple game, originated for sporting pleasure and entertainment. It is not a matter for life and death. It was not intended as an outlet for societies 'puke' - but that is exactly what it has become. Sad day. And to be honest "it isn’t going to get better".

I've been a life long supporter of Manchester United (all right, someone has to support them, so don't nail me for that!) but I felt sick at the recent display by Roy Keane in the year 2000 Charity Shield match at Wembley (Charity, now that is a joke worthy for the Lemmings Roller coaster). Such petulance does not deserve the captain's armband. It briefly crossed my mind, that perhaps for the first time in my long life, I would stop supporting 'United'. There are NO excuses for his behavior. NO excuses at all. No wonder other supporters are so antagonistic towards 'United'. I never though that I would ever feel this way. But it just goes to show - the influence of the Lemmings Roller coaster has long tentacles. It can only get worse. And do you know - it's all down to money and business - it has nothing at all to do with football itself.

Look at the recent trouble with Monsieur Vieira and his vilifying manager - both inevitably will be remembered for their faults and not their abundant talents. What must the owners of their football club think about such behavior? I suppose it is always the Referee's fault, and it is only when their gate receipts go downhill they do anything.

Perhaps we could build a Referees Lemmings Roller coaster, where the last bastion of decency in football today, can join the Lemming crowd and lambaste themselves and just about everyone else.

No football or Government body is yet big enough to accept that there really is a major problem, or to take the ultimate responsibility for saving this great game.

I just hope that some body will eventually see the light and take a very big stick and smash down the 'Lemming Roller coaster'. There will be some short-term injury and a drop in 'takings' but in the long run, maybe, just maybe - the long lost 'Spirit of the Game' will be released back out of the bottle from in which it was imprisoned many years ago by those 'billionaire' football entrepreneurs.

5. The Indirect Free Kick Signal:

(By kind permission of Alan Robinson  - Past Chairman of The Instruction and Publications Sub-Committee UK Referees Society - The Football Referee Magazine).

Every season we read of proposed changes to the Laws of the Game and it is always interesting to look back through the record books to see when certain innovations took place. In reading about the introduction of the Indirect Free Kick into football, no mention has ever been made about the signal given by the referee on such an occasion. It is common practice to see the man in the middle raise his arm when awarding this type of free kick, but how and when did it come into use?

Some time ago I was in the company of the late Arthur Blythe, the ex-FIFA referee from London. This subject came up in conversation, and much to my surprise, he related how he was the very first official to use the sign.

Arthur recalls in the early 1950's a new word came into the football vocabulary - obstruction. Players with outstretched arms were preventing their opponents from playing the ball and allowing it to run out of play or to their goalkeeper. The FA in their wisdom said this had to stop and referees were instructed to award an indirect free kick for obstruction (the first time this term was used) anywhere on the pitch including the penalty areas. Straight away, this caused problems for referees. We had players milling around the referee with "Can we score from it?" especially when the offence occurred in the penalty area.

Then one day, Portsmouth, who were one of the top teams in the country at that time, were playing Manchester City. The Chairman of Portsmouth, Vernon Stokes, who was then Chairman of the FA Disciplinary Committee, came to Arthur's dressing room and made the suggestion that it might solve the problem if the referee would raise an arm to denote what offence had been committed and that no goal could be scored direct from the free-kick. Vernon's suggestion was met with apprehension and Arthur said he would like ten minutes to talk it over with his linesmen. The outcome was that Arthur decided to give it a trial, fully realizing it could mean the end of his career as a referee, knowing that the FA were not in favor of their referees being demonstrative.

Both teams were informed via their managers and the general publics were told over the public address system. Arthur recalls it went like a dream. Players accepted the decisions and there was no milling around officials asking questions. Following the match, Arthur decided he would carry out the same procedure at his following games and on his many trips abroad on international duty.

Eventually, the system was incorporated in the Laws of the Game, and was further extended in that referees the world over have to raise an arm not only for obstruction but for all the offences when an indirect free-kick has been awarded. Although this started out as an experiment it is now universal, and players and the general public are well aware of the award, sometimes with relief, when they see the referee's arm raised.

A great piece of football history, and many thanks to Alan Robinson for the use of his article.........

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1. Attacks directed at referees' in the professional US soccer league.

By Richard Dawson - Canada

"In the opinion of the referee", the much chanted mantra of our profession is an essential ingredient in the profile of a competent referee. Referee ingredients are the intangibles of a salty personality and spicy character traits, add a level of fitness and a helping of positioning, provide a liberal sprinkling of judgment and a dash of common sense, mix together thoroughly and an opinion if formed. In the opinion of a player, coach, fan or a spectator whether a referee has the right mixture will represent whether a fork is stuck in to see if he is done. I fully recognize the frustration of coaches, players, parents and fans witnessing the game management techniques of a center referee who, (in their opinion or is it now considered fact?) is having a less than perfect game. Comments that reflect our integrity and abilities are not always unjustified, whether they are appropriate or not is another matter. We must consider the source and type of comments if we are sincere in raising the standards of officiating. The ability to agree to disagree and the true desire to apply fair play tempered with reason and passion is necessary but not without difficulties. The pursuit of excellence need not take place at the expense of ideals nor should ideals be so valued there is no allowance for improvement.

Game management is the actual working of a game, guided by the conduct of the teams involved and the referee’s interpretation of the level of bend ability Law 18 (Common Sense) allows. It is crucial to focus on our primary objective, which is to apply the rules and guide the game to a safe conclusion. A referee must always keep a firm hand on the controls! Yet, a referee has to be wary of power management and altering the game by the constant blowing of whistles. It is not the limelight we need to be seeking, just guide the game and play, play, play! Handing out cards and ejecting players is a serious matter and can influence the outcome and enjoyment of matches in as much as too little control will allow matches to deteriorate and players to be injured. There is a great deal more than blowing or not blowing your whistle at stake here. The years of experience, the level or grade a referee attains should be an asset. One would expect wisdom and tolerance to feature prominently in their demeanor. Knowledge of rules and interpretation of law are pertinent to a referee’s makeup, but attitude and composure at an adult level must be a positive influence into the "know it all" personality of those who view with disdain imperfections in others.

Referees are accorded a certain stature, but respect is an earned quality… not demanded! Game management is an art form in as much as it is the application of the rules. Conduct and adherence to your principles will eventually determine whether you are accorded respect in the opinion of others. Remember people will instinctively disagree with you 50% of the time. There is no right or wrong only opinion.

In reading recent articles on player’s perspective of officiating, I was struck by the vagueness of just what a good official would actually do differently. Good players like good officials usually arrive at some level of consistency that their peers come to rely on. Players, coaches and spectators must use seminars and discussion panels with officials to address the game of soccer in a positive framework. But let no one mistake a willingness to discuss issues as a pandering to disgruntled players who simply lack the ability to "agree to disagree" for the good of the game. It will always be difficult for players to view objectively decisions made by a referee when after a tackle where no whistle has gone and their ankle is devoid of flesh where the cleats of their respected opponent have carved burning grooves of pain. That SOB referee was blind and now that target light over the head of that demented opponent is on lock within the fiery brain of the offended player for pay back time.

The delicate balancing act of what a referee can call is ONLY what can be SEEN from WHERE YOU ARE in the INSTANT it happens! Players who criticize referees are not necessarily incorrect in their assessments whether a referee has done a good job only in understanding the application of respect and fair play extends to all aspects of the game including officials. Decisions and judgments handed out by referees are not really much different in outcome than players decisions or judgments of his or her tactical or positional play as to whether either has a memorable game. We can all stink from time to time as long as it is not all the time we move on. Players cannot manage themselves without the referee! Referees need players to play the game of soccer. It takes two, not one. For the good of the game and the evolvement of a better class of human beings, enjoy yourselves, communicate and lets play soccer!

Thank you Richard for a very well thought out article!


By Andrew Castiglione

This article offers an insight into the conflicts that are present within a team itself.

There are many players who bring values, goals, ideas and aims into their team. Ideally, players should form a cohesive team, working towards the same goals, using the same tactics and working together as a team unit. Due to the different sociological and psychological backgrounds, players also bring many differing attitudes, thoughts and prejudices into the team. The players' individual skill levels themselves will cause conflict to arise from time to time through frustration and expectations.

What constitutes conflict within the team itself?

Baskin and Aronoff 1980, believed that interpersonal communication, team spirit and cohesion could not occur if mutual understanding regarding the expectations of team members (and the team as a whole) cannot be achieved, or that there is some degree of opposition between team members, or of conflicting common interests between individuals. For example, competition for places or problems arising from unrealistic tactical demands. Interpersonal conflict may arise through unclear boundaries about the team members’ responsibilities. Annette Dove 1998-called this 'ambiguous jurisdiction'. However, this conflict within the team itself could be resolved by clearly marked responsibilities such as defined tactical instructions for each team player.

It can be argued that conflict within the team can encourage motivation through addressing the problems causing the conflict. Zoe Adams 1999, believes that frank discussion, views and points raised can sometimes offer insight into an individual's behavior and actions. These can then be positively evaluated, encouraging the implementation of improved tactics and attitudes towards other team members.

Conversely, conflict can bring about frustration and anxiety that can impede upon ability, self-image and personal expectations - and it is this frustration that spills over, and is vented during matches.

If these frustrations continue, they will evolve into poor performance and instability within the team. This in turn results in frustrations being vented against opposing players and the Referees.

Conflict within a team, is an imbalance between each team members’ views, ideas and opinions. To resolve conflict, an empathetic view of the opposing sides within the team needs to be taken, testing reasons and logic behind opposing arguments. However, not all conflicts can be resolved by one-to-one negotiations, and the intervention of a third party (the Referee during a match or the manager) may be necessary. Football does not allow time for conflicts to be resolved during play - hence frustrations build up during a match to such a level that a vent of some sort is inevitable.

Using feedback effectively during half time and after the match (and even before the match) can bring about the return of good working relationships between team players. It can induce team members to discuss potential tactical problems and conflicts before they arise. Zoe Adams (1999) believes that our culture causes us to feel awkward and uncomfortable when receiving and discussing feedback - and the 'macho' cult evident in football (soccer) players can prevent normal feedback discussion taking place sensibly. Feedback can sometimes be unwelcome by individuals or teams, causing hurt embarrassment, and creating more problems than resolving. Often, team members are reluctant to give feedback due to lack of confidence and for fear of harming relationships with fellow team members or for fear of being left out of the side in the next match. Team individuals should be able to respect all of their colleagues and value all of their views and ideas. This way, players can move forwards in improving all aspects of their play, and increase their sporting enjoyment in being part of a successful team.

Feedback can sometimes adversely affect team players if used incorrectly. It can be destructive and de-motivating, destroying self -confidence. An individual player, who is less assertive or less skilful, may harbor negative feelings and resentment, which could then affect the whole team.

Zoe Adams (1999) believes that for effective feedback, people (team players) need to be aware of their specifically set objectives and responsibilities. The words used (and how they are used) during discussions are important, along with positive non-verbal communication skills to make the player (or team) feel comfortable. Timing is also crucial. Constructive feedback can be a learning opportunity and a team building tool, although it could be argued that it might be damaging for those players who for one reason or another, are unable (or unwilling) to learn from the experience. Destructive feedback can be a point scoring exercise or lead to a power struggle between players within a team. Labeling team members, for example, as unprofessional, useless or ineffective can create further escalating conflict that can be difficult to counteract once under way.

Individual players who lack assertiveness but wish to conform to the team, not only feels negative themselves but behave in an increasingly negative manner towards other team members.

Good feed-back can encourage self-awareness through self-reflection. Players need to be able to monitor their own behavior. Dickson, Hargie and Harrow (1989) noted that people who regularly monitor the way in which they behaved, were effective in many different social situations - and this covers effectiveness as a player and a human being - on the field of play. Individual players who lack self-awareness could give out non-positive responses to their team players, such as pulling rank, becoming condescending and aggressive towards their team members (Stewart and Sundeem 1983). Often, attitudes towards others can be reflected by non-verbal communication, such as posture, gaze, and facial expressions - this non-verbal communication is often very evident between frustrated players within the same team.

Often, conflict can cause minor irritations such as bad passing between players or the unnecessary giving away of free kicks to the opposition. This can build up and lead to hostile responses between colleagues. It could be argued that individuals might not personally cause conflicts themselves, but they may be affected by external factors such as bad playing surface, low skill level within the team, bad Refereeing etc. and this can lead to a stressful environment within the team. Therefore, it is important for team members to develop good observation and tactical skills and to be able to recognize any impending conflict. Gorski and Miller (1981) believed that people (players) should listen to their intuitive warning signs and feelings; this may indicate possible aggression building up. Most players are able to recognize their frustration threshold, and are able to vent their frustrations in a controlled and non-aggressive manner - before their frustration level is breached. Team conflict will occur, but a good team must have a range of technical skills, abilities and different personalities to enable it to function to the best of its ability.

Meredith Belbin believed that there are eight roles for a team to perform well, these are:

The ‘chairpersons (or managers)’, who must be disciplined and well balanced, and be able to lead and co-ordinate proceedings from a distance.

The ‘shaper (or Captain)’, who is the team leader, they have the drive, and the passion and the leadership skills.

Then there is the ‘plant’, they originate ideas, and are the most intelligent (and very often the most skilful and constructively tactical) members of the team. Sometimes known as 'the midfield General'.

The ‘monitor evaluator (or Coach)’ who is good at checking and analyzing any problems that may lead to conflict within the team.

The ‘resource investigator (or Scout)’ helps to keep the team informed with outside information, they are supposed to be popular and extrovert.

The ‘company worker (team Secretary)’ who is the administrator and organizer.

The ‘team worker (any loyal team assistant/or watching substitutes)’ is popular and supportive to other team members.

The ‘finisher (the team club Director)’ is not always popular; they help the team to meet its deadlines by following through relentlessly.

All these personalities are needed for a good successful team (Meredith Belbin). However, personalities will sometimes clash. New members in a team can feel vulnerable and may not be able (or want to) express themselves - or they may not be allowed the chance to express themselves. Other more experienced team members can be too assertive. Assertion can be seen as a positive stance, and can help to resolve trouble within the team. Alternatively, assertive behavior can be seen as patronizing or condescending, which may cause further friction within the team, or between team individuals.

Assertiveness is a skill that can be learnt. Looking at conflict in a positive light, it can be seen that much may be learnt through evaluating previous conflicts through self-awareness. Team members' response to pressures depends on their personalities and their position within the team. Often individuals can appear rude and even obnoxious within the group and can make working with these personality types difficult. The make-up of an individual's own personal attitudes and demeanor is no excuse of behaving badly or to demean other team members.

Conflict can be unavoidable, not just because of personality traits, but by lack of resources and by different attitudes emanating from others. Venting emotions through sensible discussion and feedback can release views and opinions that may otherwise be kept from others; this view can only be seen as being positive. Although individuals normally work towards creating team unity, it is not possible to ovoid conflict to some degree. Only good intuitive skills and team management can reduce the possibility of conflict arising and escalating. This is where players should endeavor to work in unison - and use any negative emotions to generate positive feedback reactions within the team, that will in turn, introduce increased motivation and success.


Adams. Z Volume 95, no. 4, 1999, It’s good to talk, Nursing times

Baskin and Arnoff 1980, Interpersonal Communications in Organizations Goodyear

Belbin M 1981 Management Teams, Why they succeed or fail. Oxford Heinemann

Farrell and Grey 1994. Aggression, A Nurses guide to Therapeutic Management. London Scutari Press

Gauski and Miller 1986, The Management of Aggression and Violence. Herald House

Stewart and Sundeem 1983. Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing. Mosby

3. The Main Characters in a Soccer Match

By Otis Wirth  - New Hampshire Soccer Officials Association

Giving an insight into the characters on the field of play.

On any given field there are the goal scorers, the play-makers, the disrupter, and you- the referee. It is the referee's job to find out who is who in the first several minutes. Each player must be protected, but each is handled differently. This article will attempt to describe each character and how to deal with them as a referee.

Our first character is the goal scorer. They hang out near the opposing defenders waiting for the ball to come and with a hopeful chance of putting it into the back of the net. The goal scorer will play with their back to the goal and is generally good in the air. Many referees allow the goal scorer to take a tremendous beating by the opposition. Think about it. In most cases if there is a question about two individuals fouling each other in the final third of the field- who generally gets the call? The defender. Why? Because many referees don't want to give an advantage on goal to a team when both teams are "fouling" each other. Therefore the goal scorer takes a beating. This practice by the referee should be looked at more closely. Isn't it our job to protect every player? Fans, paying fans, want to see more goals- give them the opportunity to see more goals. Call the foul and point in the direction of the attacking team. This should be clarified... I'm not saying to go out on the field and make every call in favor of the goal scorer. That would be an unfair advantage and your integrity would come under question. What I am saying is, the question of who fouled who in the final third of the field doesn't always have to go against the goal scorer. Reward the goal scorer for the hard work they're doing. It can't be easy for them running on a field for up to ninety minutes and getting bumped every minute.

The second character on the field is the playmaker. For the most part this player is on every inch of the field looking to pass the ball or defend the nearest opponent. In general the playmaker is in great physical condition and is the best athlete on the field. They have the ability to "see" the whole field and to anticipate where the next action will take place. You can bet they will be there in the middle of all of that action when it happens. They live for it! As a referee, these players are easy to see, but hard to find. This sounds like a contradiction. Let me try to clear this up. The playmaker, as I said, will always try to be in the middle of the action. They are easy to see because they are usually near the ball and often this is where the referee will be looking. They are hard to find because the playmaker is always, and I mean always, on the move. You'll rarely see this player standing around and watching. Therefore hard to find. Being the player-maker also means they are "game smart". They know when to run hard or conserve their energy. They understand what the other team is trying to do, whether it be offensively or defensively. But most of all, they know when you, the referee, are looking in their direction. As a referee, you must be aware of this fact. The referee must keep one eye on the playmakers. They are the ones that make things work for their team. These playmakers are good people to talk to during the game. Let them know you're around. Let them know you see them. Small words of praise or condemnation are useful with these players. Don't try to be "cute" with them, because they'll come back to bite you. Remember, these are the "game smart" players and they know what is going on. They've been around. They will either be an asset to you or your worst nightmare. It depends on you and your actions.

The next character on the field is the disrupter. Be careful, because the disrupter can be dressed in disguise. They may look like the other characters I have already discussed, but believe me they're not. The disrupter is most likely an excellent soccer player. They have played at every level and play as often as they can year round. This character must be found as early as possible in the game. Their job is to help their team by any means necessary. They will tackle hard, challenge for 50/50 balls hard, and question everything they deem unfair. This player will talk "trash" to their opponents. Basically the disrupter will do anything in their power to disrupt the flow of the game. I bet when you first read the word disrupter you got a mental picture of a certain type of player. The disrupter doesn't always have to be the "thug" who is out chopping opponents down by the ankles. The disrupter quite often is muddling the game behind your back or even worse in front of your face without you even realizing it. They are the player who causes you to watch them instead of the action every minute of the game. It might be a stray bumping of an opponent off the ball or some subtle words to an opponent that you don't really hear, but you know its been said. It is most definitely the player who questions all of your decisions. From the throw-in at midfield to the takedown by a teammate in the final third. The disrupter must be dealt with immediately. A small phrase early in the game like: "Hey number 5 that will be enough of that" or "Today number 5 we're going to do things a little differently." In both cases the referee must maintain composure and by all means DON'T make it sound like "If you do that again, I'll....." kind of statement. That would be a challenge that the disrupter would take upon himself or herself and they will enjoy the challenge more than you- guaranteed! If at all possible, have those words privately with the disrupter while you're both running down the field. At some point in the match, for you to determine, you'll have to confront the disrupter. Do it quickly, do it with as few words as possible and get the game moving again. The more you try to reason with the disrupter, the further loss of control you have on the game as a whole.

The final character is you- the referee. When I think of good referees, the first thing that comes to mind is having the ability to orchestrate twenty-two personalities and a physical contest at the same time. The good referee must first present the right picture when entering the field. The uniform is clean and pressed, shoes are polished, and they walk with head held high. All of these things can be done by anyone; whether you are the referee who blows their whistle and no one but you hear it or the referee who thinks that they are the show that people have come to see. Looking professional gets the tone of game off on the right foot. Another aspect of good refereeing is being approachable. You don't have to be a great referee to listen to concerns of others, but you do have to listen. Ask yourself, "Can people talk to me before the game? During the game? After the game?" Better yet, do they even want to talk to you? It's good to talk to the coaches and players. Make it brief and keep it professional. You are there to do a service, not make friends. When you have to admonish, again, do it quickly and professionally. You'll be respected more for what you don't say during a heated situation then what you do say. Never ever challenge a player or coach with an ultimatum. They rarely, if ever work, and nothing good can ever come from it. The referee will lose in almost every situation. Next, a good referee must know when and how to blow their whistle. Sounds easy, but it seems to be a difficult concept. The whistle should be used, as a signal to everyone that plays will be stopped for any number of reasons. Maybe time has expired, the ball went in and out of play quickly, or a foul has been committed. Each whistle should say something different. Loud and long for hard fouls or fouls that require a card. Short and sweet for trifling fouls or out of bounds. Your whistle is the finest form of communication you have on the field. If you think you see a foul and your head asks you: "Was that a foul?" It probably was a foul. Blow your whistle. No coach is ever going to "blackball" you from his or her school or club team for blowing your whistle too much. If they do, that is probably a place you don't want to go anyway. Finally, to be a good referee, you must be willing to learn. Every time you walk on the field or go watch a game you have entered "the referee learning zone." Use it to your advantage and become the best referee you can be. You must continue to learn, especially if you want to be on the top of your chosen field. Read books, watch videos, use the Internet, or listen to experienced referees. There isn't any referee, no matter how far they've gotten, that has stopped learning. Learning is the key to anyone being successful. This concept goes far beyond refereeing.

Good luck...

Otis Wirth

NHSOA Member, NISOA and NEISOA Member

4. The mother of football will never cut the apron strings to its baby.

By Julian Carosi

The Football (Soccer) Referee Sausage-making Machine is struggling to keep up with the growing consumption of demand!

A typical grassroots example shows?............

Recruitment and retention of Referees at grassroots level, is failing to keep pace with the growing demand of this beautiful game. As a member of the United Kingdom Referees' Association, the Melksham Referees' Society based at the small town of Melksham, in the pretty county of Wiltshire England, does more that its fair share of recruiting, training and providing new sausages to throw into that 'frying pan' endearingly known in Refereeing jargon as 'The Field of Play'. There are more appropriate phrases that could justifiably be used - such as 'Field of Conflict', 'Field of War', 'Battle Field' and I'm sure you can think of a few more appropriate terms. To Referee a game, is not just as simple as stepping onto, and stepping off, from the field of play. It will be long hence before a field of play is cleared of those perpetual barbed remarks about Referees that have blighted our game.

The Melksham sausage making (along with other Wiltshire County Referees’ Society sausage making) takes place about three times a year, providing an annual potential of 45 new Class 3 chipolatas for our depleting Wiltshire County larder. The Melksham Society intensive (free) training takes place over one weekend (Saturday and Sunday (0900-1830). Voluntary FA Referee Instructors from within the Society, assisted by experienced senior colleagues provide the training. A small fee is returned to the Society for each new recruit passed through their sausage machine. Of the approximately 15 candidates per session, a number will have come from a Youth Team background, some of them are parents, some young players, some managers or Coaches, and some Club Linesmen etc.....In a normal year, the Melksham Referees’ Society will have trained up to about 45 to 50 recruits. At a very rough guess - about half of them (say 25) actually go on to start Refereeing, the remainder being content with just learning the Laws and occasionally helping their respective teams when a Referee is not available. After a year or so, the County will be very lucky to have 10 out of the original 50 candidates, whom are still Refereeing. The others will have already decided that the abuse is just not worth it. Counteract this, with the ever-increasing departure of our experienced Referees, and you will begin to understand why there are "just not enough Referees to go around".

…the other edge slices the fragile skin of our raw apprentices.

A number of the Melksham Referee candidates are teenagers, who begin their career by officiating in the local County youth games. These new conscripts are the seeds of the next English Premiership (and dare I hope F.I.F.A.) Referees. To improve retention, the Wiltshire County Football Association will shortly be implementing a 'Mentor' scheme to enable the more senior County Referees to help, advise, guide, protect and prevent our very new chipolatas from getting burned too quickly in their unprepared baptism of the frying pan. It is hoped that the encouragement and protection they receive from this scheme will stabilize Referee numbers, and provide a better class of frankfurter, with enough spice in them to stay the course and douse the smoke from the emotional scorching fields of play.

Recruitment and attention is a sharp double-edged sword slowly cutting its way into the heart of game. The reason for low Referee numbers is fairly obvious to everyone involved with the game. One edge of the sword continually stabs away at the heart of our long standing dedicated and seasoned Referees, and the other edge slices the fragile skin of our raw apprentices.

Why? ..............Abuse, total disregard for authority, and almost the complete disappearance of the foundation of the game, "gentlemanly behavior' - there! I've said it, and I'm glad that it's off my chest".

Not only do Referees have dissenting players to contend with, they are very often given extra bonuses of parent abuse and mistreatment from just about anyone else who cares to 'chip' in. And all for no extra cost. As soon as the Referee dons his black uniform, he is open to a myriad of abuse that would not be accepted (or go unpunished) in normal society. Some Referees I know are burley, muscular characters, who in other walks of life would react instantly and strongly to such vitreous abuse if it were directed at them on the street. And let's be honest - in other walks of life, such abuse would not be aimed at them, unless the perpetrator had 'lost their marbles’! The donning of the black kit seems to open up a mythical World where disgusting words are the accepted unpunished stones of the guilty. Any measuring implement here cannot gauge the weekly constraint experienced by almost every Referee on Earth.

"If it is abuse, - why one is always sure to hear of it from one dammed good-natured friend or another."

The Critic (1779) act 1, sc 1

It is the nature of all good Referees not to be influenced by anything bad, and in this greatness recognize that they will always be attended with considerable abuses wherever they go.

"So is it all doom and gloom?" Yes, it certainly feels like it at the grass roots' level. It can be very disheartening when both senior colleagues and new Referees decide to 'call it a day' - in a sad way, it's very easy to understand why. Those protagonists who insist on 'roasting every Referee on a spit' do not grasp the long-term damage that they instigate – and they should certainly not criticize Law interpretations that they do not properly understand.

"The Referees did not make up the Laws".

The enmities of a generation lie buried deep,
And the temple of reconciliation will take some reconstructing.

The typical English County of Wiltshire has over 300 qualified Referees on its books. The increasing popularity of the game, and the retention and recruitment problems mean that our local grassroots Saturday and Sunday Leagues Referees’ Appointment Secretaries are struggling to provide a qualified Referee and Assistant Referees for each game. Invariably, an increasing number of games are now played without an official Referee. This dedicated core of County appointment secretaries is constantly battling uphill to improve Referee availability. This problem is not unique to Wiltshire, and is felt more so particularly at youth level, where it can sometimes be impossible to obtain enough qualified Referees.

There is no easy solution for improving the relationship between Referees and players, parents, spectators, TV pundits or Team officials. Referees are a hard working (mostly on a volunteer basis), genuine, caring, sensitive, fair, committed and a very human bunch of people. They are constantly berated from just about every quarter for being 'cheats', of not knowing the Laws, and for lacking consistency. The core Referees are intelligent enough to understand their role in the game, and caring enough to put such attacks into perspective. It is no wonder that Referees have to retreat into their shells after controversial games. Accusations that Referees cannot face up to their mistakes, or are too frightened to confront angry remonstrators are TOSH!. Experience has taught Referees that they are almost on our own, and must therefore be very careful about what they say, and to whom they say it! Else confrontation will lead to cccccccccccconfrontaion. There is no winner when there are three teams. The malaise is partly symptomatic of society in general - but other sports do not have the same level and severity of problems. Manners have long been forgotten or not taught. Respect - well, that no longer exists these days. Referees will just have to plod on and do their own little bit to try and improve matters. Referees are a totally dedicated, underestimated and above all very human group of people, corporately trying to improve the lot of football - it's a pity that those outside the Refereeing circle fail to recognize this. The enmities of a generation lie buried deep, and the temple of reconciliation will take some reconstructing.

The impasse can be better explained by the following:

Invariably, the losing team always blames the Referee:

(Comment from the Red team after the end of a game)......."You lost us the game".

But what does that actually mean?

1. The Referee actually took the penalty kick and scored the winning goal for the Green team.

2. The Referee was the (sent-off) Red attacker, who purposefully rearranged the face of a Green defender.

3. Or conversely, the Referee was the Green attacker, who purposefully antagonized the Red defender, knowing full well that a penalty would be awarded to the Green team if the Red attacker hit him.

4. The Referee really did not have a clue about the Laws, and the WHOLE game was officiated badly from the start to the finish.

5. The Referee is the brother of the Green team manager.

6. The Referee is an ex-player of the Green Team.

7. The Referee is prejudiced against the color of 'Red'.

8. The Referee is a 'Green peace' supporter!

9. The Referee was the Red team goalkeeper, and purposefully let in the penalty, which he could have easily saved.

10. The Referee had placed a huge bet with the local 'bookmaker' that the Green team would win 1-0 at odds of 100 to 1.

Of course, the Referee is none of those things. But you can bet your 'bottom dollar' that the entire 'Red' contingent would certainly vote for number 4, even though for 89 minutes and 55 seconds of the game, they thought that the Referee was ‘great’.

"Some Referees are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

A Referee's task is to balance the Laws, add a modicum of common sense, and manage the brothel of emotions with the patience of a saint and the Wisdom of Solomon. It is a difficult task to achieve in that split second of time in which they stand alone within the battlefield.

Rising of standards within the grassroots clubs will help lessen the gap of understanding
and appreciation between Referees and the footballing world.

The advent of the Internet is slowly reaping benefits for Referees in the United Kingdom. Communication channels have opened up, local Societies are stetting up new web sites and actually talking to each other for the first time - this provides easily obtainable information to help Referees. This will undoubtedly go some way to improving general Refereeing standards. Once a Referee has qualified by passing his exam, apart from the help obtained in joining a Society, there is no guidance (except God), and no standard structured plan at grassroots level in England, to help a Referee 'stay the course'. There are a number of very good Referees' Societies throughout the country, where participating in activities allows members to pool experience, learn by sharing information, and organize training talks and briefings. Joining a Society is the best way forward for ambitious Class 3 Referees in the UK to progress to Class 2, Class 1 and "to infinity and beyond". The national United Kingdom Referees' Society actively encourages all Referees to join one of its local Societies - but in reality, a large number of UK Referees do not belong to a Society, nor participate in any form of update training during their career. This is worrying, and undoubtedly the standard of our Referees at grassroots level is suffering. In the County of Wiltshire, we hold the occasional Referee seminars consisting of specific briefing sessions - but attendance is not always great. There is definitely a training gap between a new grassroots Referee and progression upward to become a top class Referee. New Referees are generally left to their own devices, and apart from joining a Referees' Society, there is little else available to help them mature confidently into their peacekeeping role. Their maturity is gleaned first hand by continually jumping into, and out of the weekly football frying pan without the proper preparation or guidance.

"Do you think my mind is maturing late? Or simply rotted early?" 'Lines on Facing Forty/ (1942)

A recent beta test of a new CD-ROM training package covering the Laws of the Game is progressing well. The CD contains video excerpts, narrative, diagrammatic explanations, random questions and answers tests and much more......... Once fully developed and utilized, this will go a long way to helping all levels of Referees in the United Kingdom. Referees at the top level (Premiership and F.I.F.A. Referees) have their own structured training, mentoring and development schemes - but this is unavailable to the grassroots Referees who have little or nothing to help them develop the desires of their own hearts.

The growing demands and expectations of new and existing grassroots football clubs, and the visibility of live TV broadcasts in England is also having its effect on the running of football clubs at grass root levels. And this in turn effects the way Referees are treated. A core of dedicated volunteers runs most clubs - none of them are getting any younger. Because of the availability of televised football, it is becoming increasingly difficult to encourage younger people to become active in helping to manage their local football club. Many of them would prefer to watch the live televised games, than to sit through a 4-hour committee meeting. This leaves a core of dedicated elderly people running the local clubs, with no new blood on the horizon to take their place. The English Football Association have injected £32 million this year (2001), in an attempt to promote football at grassroots - and a number of local clubs have already received the FA's new Charter Standard award.

£180 million will be injected over the next three years to encourage youngsters to join clubs who have earned the FA award, which covers organization, safety and quality. A newly appointed Wiltshire County Development Officer is one of the 35 new development candidates installed nation-wide. Their job will be to liaise with the grassroots football clubs and help them with their organization, improving ground conditions, coaching, creating a safe environment and developing their youth teams to their full potential. I'm not totally convinced that this injection of money will resolve this demise, but at least the problem has been recognized, and active steps have been taken to try and improve the grassroots standards. The aim this year is for 750 clubs nation-wide, to be awarded with this new FA charter - with the ultimate aim being to reach out to a framework of 40,000 clubs who will provide a safe environment for coaching our youngsters. Every club should strive towards raising the standards of their grassroots football, and it is hoped that this initiative will help parents decide on the best place for their children to be taught this wonderful game. Invariably, rising of standards within the grassroots clubs will help lessen the gap of understanding and appreciation between Referees and the footballing world - and will go some way into cementing the cancerous damage that has developed unchecked over the past 10 years.

The mother of football will never cut the apron stings to its baby.

As a participating Referee, the above reading does not bode too well. Nevertheless, I would wish to end on a positive note. There are a great number of totally dedicated unsung heroes throughout our land, in both the Refereeing contingent and the football club contingent, to ensure that Referees and football, weather the storm here in England - after all, we are an island race hardened to the daily buffetings of life. The new initiatives by both the Football Association and the Referees' Association must bring a positive result. But I do not discount it going to a penalty 'shoot-out!

+-+ BACK TO TOP +-+


1. Melksham Referees' Society Members are sent to Prison.

By Julian Carsio

"Forget the outside World. Life has different Laws in here."
(Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

It was with some trepidation that I accepted a request from our Melksham Referees' Society Chairman Herbie Magri-Overend to help out with a Referees' weekend Training Course in May, organized by our local (England) Wiltshire County Council Sports Development Officer. The trepidation refers to the fact that the course was being held inside our local Erlestoke prison - the students consisted of a mixture of 4 guests of Her Majesty’s prison, 2 primary school teachers, and a University sports student AND a warder who remained with us during our two-day sentence! As a player in years gone by, I had competed in a number of games within the compounds of the prison in the late 70's and early 80's, when the Erlestoke prison team blessed the Division 4 of the local Trowbridge & District Football League. I therefore had some vague recollection about the inside of the establishment. In my 'playing' days this was a Class 'D' prison - since upgraded to Class 'C'. I started to feel a little bit more comfortable when Herbie told me that one of our experienced senior instructors (an ex-Policeman) would be part of the training team. The trepidation returned some weeks later when family commitments meant that it would now only be Herbie and myself. We were duly both found guilty, and henceforth sentence to a weekend in prison.

The Wiltshire County Sports Development officer met us in the visitors’ car park, bright and early at 7:30 on Saturday morning. Following a quick introduction, we made our way along the 100-yard approach road to the prison gate. The sun was shining and the birds were singing beautifully in the trees. The prison is set on a hillside in the beautiful Witshire countryside between the towns of Devizes and Westbury - the panoramic view north towards the World War 2 Keevil Airfield were magnificent. The green fencing (as high as my 'chimbley' pots) topped by razor wire blended with the surrounding trees and fields.

"…..So if I start to internally combust........ You’ve had it."

The ‘outsiders’, two schoolteachers and the University student were waiting for us at the main gate. The prison warder duly arrived with his 'clinking' keys and we were admitted after a cursory 'checking-in' procedure with the guardroom. I looked down at Herbie's brief case and his multitude of carrier bags (full of training aids) - and it looked as though he was arriving for a very long confinement! I was glad to be only carrying a ' visitors only’ bag. The main gate closed with an ominous 'clunk'. Those of you who have watched 'Porridge' on TV will know what I mean, when the 'clunk' of the closing door sent shivers down our spines. I am beginning to realize exactly what claustrophobia just might be! The warder introduces himself, and asked if we would kindly not call him Mr. Mackay! Not wishing to extend our stay any longer than necessary, we duly obliged. We followed the jangling keys dancing their way though a series of other locked gates - and the feeling of entombment was complete. The last mammoth gate revealed a 'Brick Works' and in my stupidity, I asked the warder if the prisoners were still required to construct bricks for a living?. He looked at me as if I was daft (I own up to that qualification). After a weak smile, he explained that the 'Brick Works' is there to teach inmates the skill of brick laying. I think that I may have read too many Charles Dickens novels - I must keep up with the modern hard times. Another door unlocked (and then locked behind us) and we found ourselves in the prison gymnasium. After an introduction to a mountain of a prison physical education officer (and we are certainly glad to have him on our side!) we made our way through what can best be described as the archetypal designed prison door. Herbie and I both agreed that prison doors must be especially designed to close with a such a BANG as to leave you with no doubt as to exactly where you are and when they are being used (and they all seem to be so easy to get into, but stubbornly difficult to get out of.) I know appreciate where the term 'slammer' came from.

"That's some fence to climb over to get the ball".

The training room turned out to be the old prison Art room, recently whitewashed by the prisoners. The smell of oil and water paints still pervaded the air. A smell that had always reminded me of my own primary school days - sadly not any more! Herbie and I quickly made the most of the scant facilities to set out the room to the best of our abilities. The prison warder fetched the four guests who were duly introduced. A shaking of the hands helped to break the ice of uncertainty that we were all experiencing. We settled down into our designated areas - and then Herbie finally sealed the tomb by asking the warder to "go over the domestics".

"In the event of a fire, the only way out of this building is by me using the keys to open the doors. So if I start to internally combust........ You’ve had it".

Herbie replied with some alarm. " So what are we supposed to do then!"

The warder quickly replied. " Oh don't worry, the prisoners know exactly where my keys are - and they will be the first ones out - just follow them."

There followed a furtive glance by all of us - towards those precious keys hanging securely at his waist.

I timidly squeak. "It's rather hot in this room" and apprehensively look around at the windows. I meekly ask if I can open one or two. This was granted - and on opening them, found that they were all protected by a metal grill that you could hardly pass a red card through. I take a few gulps of the provided bottled water to make me 'cooler'. A radio in the distance was faintly playing some 'rap' music. Is that old red paint stains on the windowsills? - Or could it be something else?

The toilet door is unlocked for me to quickly 'slop out'. BANG - it is locked back again. Thankfully I managed to get out first. More smells to register!

On with the course! - The four guests sat on one side, the rest of the class on the other. The warder (who is also taking the course and has to be with us at all times) sits authoritatively at the front. Herbie opens the course with his usual banter and we both try very hard at breaking down the barriers by involving the students in set-plays. As Herbie raises his whistle to his mouth for a demonstration - we are quickly reminded that it would not be prudent to blow whistles inside the institution. Another furtive glance at the warder revealed a police type whistle as big as I have ever seen, dangling alongside those oh! so coveted keys. What I would give for a whistle like that on the field of play. We try very hard not to kick the students too hard when demonstrating reckless tackles of an excessive nature. It fleetingly crosses my mind that maybe - just maybe, I had made a few real late tackles myself on these very same guys in my playing days. Then it's my turn - Law 6 Assistant Referees' 'Death by PowerPoint' slideshow presentation. I move to turn the lights down - and in no uncertain terms I am told NOT to press the alarm button by mistake - unless I want the door to be ripped off its hinges in a matter of seconds! I carefully press the correct switches, move swiftly away from the vicinity of the door and gulp down another golf ball of anxiety.

The morning session is interspersed with a visit to the prison field of play surrounded by its own razor-topped fence and more locked gates. One of the goals is quite near the corner of the enclosure, and I stupidly quip towards the warder - "That's some fence to climb over to get the ball". And was duly told that balls were very often thrown back over by dog walkers. Herbie and I segregated the students into two groups and proceeded to teach the field of play inspection, throw-in goal-kick etc. procedures. At the stroke of 11:50, the four guests suddenly disappeared - and we were told that under no circumstances would they be happy to be late for their mid-day meal. We didn't argue. The rest of us ambled back to the training room with the warder - and Herbie and I were provided with good old prison fare of pork pies, quiche, crisps and cakes. And they went down a treat. A longer than expected lunch break meant that our course timetable was also being eaten into. We rushed through the afternoon session in the hope that we could escape before the gates were finally closed for the night. As I leave the training room, I draw a line on the chalkboard (one more day to go!). We joined the exiting band of prison visitors, and once again, Herbie with his menagerie of bags looked as though he had finally been released after a long confinement.

Sunday morning and once again we were 'banged up' early in the prison ready to start at 08:30AM. The students were markedly more relaxed and more intimate than yesterday. During the morning, we make our way once again to the field of play to witness a game in progress between 22 prisoners. The Referee is none other than our friendly mountain mentioned earlier. He was both Referee and a player. I'm not so sure about all those dangerous appurtenances hanging from his belt though! The game disappointedly turns out to be a tame affair, with hardly any incidents to discuss. The warder informed us that because of the lack of linesmen, they never used offside. As 'Sod's Law would have it, we were then duly obliged with an offside decision given by the Referee mountain. The warder conceded that off sides were sometimes given if they were obvious. The Referee confirmed this after the game, but added with a smile, that he only gave offside if it was against a player of the team that he was not playing for, and if it looked as though a goal was going to be scored against his side! Now there's a thought for Law 11. I explained that I had expected more of a physical contest between such athletic and surprisingly skilful players - he told me that they had been warned previously that some visitors would be looking at them this morning, and hence their good behavior. "They are not normally so well behaved".

I also asked him about how they disciplined players. "How do you deal with red cards?"

He replied, " Oh we don't have any trouble with that here, the players know that if they misbehave, they will not be allowed out of their cells to play football again - it works a treat."

"…. Considering the circumstances, I think we "done OK".

The course ended in a rush, with our schedule flying out of the window (well, at least it would have done had it not been for those stifling bars). We just managed to keep the candidates awake after two whole days of tuition. I reckon Herbie and I probably learnt just as much as the pupils did! A taut timescale will be needed if we ever return for bad behavior.

We were very well looked after by the warder - fed and put back out to grass in an efficient manner. All of the candidates were a credit to themselves under such awkward circumstances. We never did manage to completely break down the barriers as we would normally do in an 'outside' course - but considering the circumstances, I think we "done OK".

I've never seen Herbie move so fast when he packed up his belongings (there's life in the old dog yet!), and before we knew it, we (minus four guests and a warder) were all back outside the main gate contemplating an experience that will remain with us for a very long time.

Melksham Referees’ Society

2. The UK National Health Service...
takes a 'Red' Card from the Punishment Book of Football (Soccer).

Recent pitch invasions at the Headingly Cricket ground in England serve to further emphasize the concerns felt by all Law abiding citizens here in the United Kingdom. Cricket - lately the last bastion of decent behavior in our Isle - has finally succumbed to the inevitable indiscipline that plagues almost every form of life both here and around the Globe. The disease of immorality has even pervaded the corridors of our 'once so proud' Health Service - with a culture of 'anything goes' encouraging young yobbish men to behave in despicable ways - emphasizing that mothers and fathers are no longer required. Family attitudes and upbringing - so long the platform of decent young adults - have degenerated into a maelstrom that will (if not controlled) inevitably result in regular mass confrontations in all walks of life.

The National Health Service is bringing in new "zero tolerance" policy guidelines to allow nursing staff and doctors to withdraw a patients right of treatment if they are persistently violent to staff.

"It is a sad, sad, sad world that tolerates abuse to nurses.."

The UK Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, has introduced a scheme whereby persistent violent offenders (excluding Mental health patients and those requiring emergency treatment) will be issued with a yellow card, consisting of a verbal and a written warning. The empowerment of the Red card will be the responsibility of senior managers or clinical care staff - thus banning treatment of the individual from that hospital for a year. Persistent offenders will be ‘blacklisted’ thus making it almost impossible for them to receive treatment in any Hospital. Some medical staff have called for an even tougher stance to counteract the violent behavior often instigated by the family and friends of patients in the Accident and Emergency departments. The indiscipline juxtaposition with football (soccer) is only too clear. Local Football Associations are struggling to find workable solutions to reduce the number of offences committed each year by transgressing players. The level of monetary fines will be increased this year in an attempt to curb some of the problems. But the level of income regularly available to young men is such, that paltry fines are now only seen as a small inconvenience, hardly worth bothering about. And very often, red cards and yellow cards are seen as a perverted trophy that the modern 'macho man' revels in. Fines are supposed to inflict a punishment that would have embarrassed a youngster some twenty years ago. But not any more. There is no longer a fear or respect of the police or parents or teachers or nurses or Referees or anyone else in authority.

"This generation seems to have lost the plot somewhere."

Mankind seems to have learned the sad skill of tolerating just about any forms of misbehavior.

The time has arrived for football authorities to come down with a heavy hand - else what hope for our children. It is clear that fines alone are not the solution. Points taken from league records will provide a corporate punishment for offending teams. Banning infringing teams from playing or registering. Insisting in pre-season goodwill returnable deposits. Instigating and insisting on signed Code of Conducts for players, managers and parents. Increasing Referee powers......... all are alternative methods that may be considered.

"It is only when the Referee or Nurse dons their uniform, that the switch of improper behavior is breached."

It is worrying to hear that most inner-city medical practitioners have been assaulted at least once, and that nearly half the nurses interviewed during a recent Unison (Union) survey had been attacked in one way or another during the previous year. In comparison, the Football Referee is also expected to suffer abuse of one form or another in EVERY game. Such behavior would not be tolerated by the 'man in the street'. It is only when the Referee or Nurse dons their uniform, that the switch of improper behavior is breached. A tolerance has been allowed to grow over the years, whereby abuse against these decent groups of people seems to be accepted as part of their lot - and beyond those normal Laws of the country that swiftly deal with similar acts against citizens on the street. It is a Nation's duty to prosecute and heavily fine or imprison for such acts of violence -so why does it not act in these two walks of life? Maybe because there is a growing concern that action is not being taken by those who have been assaulted, for fear of retribution. It is a sad, sad, sad world that tolerates abuse to nurses whose dedicated aim is to provide comfort for the ill.

"What hope the rest of us?"

Last year there were 65,000 incidents suffered by National Health Service staff - it is a sad indictment of society that requires football type red and yellow cards to be paced on a patient's notes to limit or deny them treatment that could save a patient's life. The retention of both Referees and nurses is a growing concern. It is totally unacceptable that nurses who work to care for others and Referees who are supposed to provide the conduit for youngsters to enjoy their sport are subject to those levels of violence and intimidation envisaged every day.

The time has come to say NO! to violence - but turning back the tide of violence will take more than preventative methods in the workplace.

Like most trouble spots, it is the minority of perpetrators that taint normality. The worrying facets being that the minorities seem to be increasing! A typical example of this culture, recently reported in the newspaper, was experienced during a recent visit by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the Royal Hospital in London, where a 48 year old East Londoner brandishing a copy of Class War confronted the Prime Minister and shouted across a crowded waiting area:

"Oi! Blair you tosser. Like to see you waiting here for six hours."

What hope the rest of us?

There are libel and moral concerns that conflict with professional ethics - why should nurses be expected to behave like Referees when their vocation is to treat patients irrespective of their behavior? And why should Referees be expected to behave as deaf policemen when their vocation is to provide control for what essentially is an amusement for the benefit of mankind?

3. Fun and games

By Richard Dawson - Canada

As long as my health and eyesight allow I consider myself fortunate to be given the opportunity to officiate several games at all levels each week. I remain challenged by the pace and intensity of adult or select play. You too may relish the gamesmanship of the older youth and adults where your talents will be tested and your abilities to discern the spirit and intent pushed to the limit. Yet, the youth can offer you a chance to be active in the promotion of fair play and conduct on the field by fostering an atmosphere of fun and a love of the game. Fun, safety, genuine concern and respect for all players are for all levels of play not just youth.

It is important to our young players that we show them respect and value for their efforts. In striving to present the game in a fun and rewarding atmosphere (particularly at the youth level) a referee's code of conduct will enhance or decrease the odds of this happening.

Many referees show up just before kick-off (even after start time) or improperly attired as if to say this game is of little consequence. Circumstances have occasionally prevented me from being on time, work commitments, family matters, car troubles, etc. I have been asked to referee while standing on the touchline as a spectator so my attire on these occasions is less than stellar. However, I always apologize to the teams if this occurs and ask them to forgive my indiscretion. Not to overstate pomp and ceremony but in my humble opinion we should try diligently not to let this happen. We must not overstate our importance as referees in a game that is supposed to be fun and full of passion for everyone. Referees are not always needed if those that play remember fun and fair play are the real spirit of this game. Bending the rules to accommodate the spirit of the game is well recognized and may well be the delineating factor between good and great referees. Speaking from every angle, as a parent, coach, official, manager, player, fan and as a referee the evolution of any individual within this most passionate and humbling of games lives within the center circle of Faith. Faith in each other and ourselves to allow for divergence of opinion but united in purpose to make each game the best experience to the individuals that play it. We spend a lifetime gaining insight into making the perfect call when it is well within our grasp to make a good call.

In terms of the youth, I believe in a teaching approach to refereeing other than a strong silent sentinel style. The only consideration in this approach is not to focus attention on you and take it away from the kids. While I am not shy about addressing the spectators, parents and fans as to their role in this fun game I humbly recognize the know it all approach isn't one likely to curry favor with your peers or the players. I often ask the spectators and fans to help me decide a player from each team that best exemplifies the spirit of hard work and fair play. At match end, this has been a very positive influence as we are busy focusing on the real important issue, the players. In youth matches, where ego and pride are the only vices since money is not yet involved the central issue remains this game is for fun and it is for their benefit not anyone else's. Your difficulties will more than likely come from the sidelines rather than the field of play at the lower youth level.

In Canada, we often referee the recreational leagues without assistant referees. Positioning differences by a referee in the absence of assistants can prove to be a daunting task, as the stamina and fitness required with adults and older youth pushes this old guy to some serious heavy breathing. I am a firm believer in being close to the play to better gauge the intent. Experience and perception leads to anticipation of ball and player movement. Visual and verbal clues of a players actions and intent are often far easier to ascertain if you are within range to observe. I am not implying that the ball should hit you as in active play but it is a far shrewder referee than I who can call fouls from 30+ yards away. If you can achieve a balance, let me know I have yet to perfect it. If you find yourself involved in active play by quickly changing circumstances, freeze if the ball is moving in tight and be aware of those near you in pursuit as a quick change of direction or pace on your part and you step on or into a player.

I have often in my exuberance high fives the keeper after a solid save, actually explained why I called a foul or blown the whistle. Yell, "Well in lad or lassie" after a good clean tackle. Self-absorbed coaches who feel I impinge on their authority do not always appreciate my antics on the soccer pitch. Often when I offer advice to youth at any age it is to correct or instill a good habit or at least what I personally consider a positive comment. "Turn and Face, Talk, Who's up for it, Great ball through, and Excellent throw" are a few examples: At the youth level foul throw ins from the touchline are whistled so often it is a wonder play continues at all. This is a simple method of restarting play and need not be complicated. Allowing the other team to successfully get the ball back into play by reassuring youth as to proper form or encouragement after a successful throw should not evoke passionate pleas by the opposition coaches that I am taking sides because their team is less likely to have a foul throw due to their great coaching technique.

I will often in my pre game talks explain to each team what it is I expect from them and in turn what they can expect from me. "We have a great day (lets assume its sunny) to play one of the greatest of games are you lads / lassies up for it? Did your coach prepare you well? Everyone ready to have Fun. Are we properly dressed; shirts tucked into shorts, shin guards, socks pulled up, no jewellery or watches, proper footgear?"

Address any laws or tournament rules that are new or changed. I believe this year the 6-second rule and the elimination of the 4 steps for the keeper was front and center.

Substitutions all teams on own ball possession (generally two at a time but be flexible at youth level); over touchline or goal line or if other team initiates. Not on fouls for free kicks unless injury to player. All players leave and enter at center; high five by out going players and incoming substitutions will prevent confusion. I explain I will add time to make up lengthy delays but I expect all players to hustle on and off. Use the assistant referees if they are available to indicate the substitutions. Tell them to concentrate on the game and communicate with each other. Do not listen to the Touch Line comments but play the whistle and not to assume if the ball is in or out.
Ask them if they know the difference between an indirect and direct free kick. Show them the correct signal and tell them to look for the signal not ask if it is or isn't. We should not be stating how much time is left in the match, if they are observant they should know. If extra time will be added I will say so near the end of the game or half. I usually try and wave off substitutions in the final minute or so unless there is a valid reason. I drive the point home on my view of offside, particularly when officiating as a single referee. Unless I am, 100% convinced that an offside has occurred, I will not blow the whistle. Explain that if you are running offside traps you had better be sure positioning is consistent with ability to properly view or the risk is play will keep on. Raising your hand and yelling offside will not be viewed favorably. In many instances when attacking and defending players are playing the ball, we will not be able to identify who last touched it out. I will choose the attacking side generally because they are forcing the play. I explain my desire to play advantage when ever possible and delay the whistle a few moments in non-essential matters. There are far too many handballs and whistle stoppages at the youth level. Much of this is due to referee inexperience. As our foul recognition and confidence increases so will our concepts of game management and the intent of players actions.

Always ask the players if they have understood and solicit their questions if they want to know more or have other questions concerning the game. I personally have no problem with any player asking about a call if they do it in a polite, respectful tone when the time allows for it during a match. Otherwise I ask them to table it for after the game. I have often explained to players after the game why I called a particular foul or handled a situation a certain way. This has never caused me a problem, although at the elite level I seriously doubt it is a good idea given the goofiness of national politics and the tension we manage to inflict on the game.

If you are using cards to id players I suggest have the team line up with one knee down on the penalty area line parallel to the goal. Have them raise a hand when called. Stand in front of them if you have assistant referees to check cleats and player #'s from behind. Stand in behind if officiating by yourself so you can them to come to you. Release the player by indicating they can get up and go. Even in youth league games this approach sets a professional tone for the teams and shows you care about the game.

There is far stricter protocol in professional and national matches then anything I have presented. It can easily be changed depending on the level of play and circumstances but as a guide serve me well. I have no problem with others that feel my view of the game differs from theirs. We can agree to disagree. It is in our nature to disagree with each other but it is in the way in which controversy is dealt with that separates the truly aware individual from those mired in limitations.

I love this game with all its passion. I have been involved in football as a coach for many years, spending my share of time rendering or at least wanting to render some referees limb from limb for some of the dumb decisions that either endangered my players or caused games to be protested and replayed. Recognizing the referee needs to learn does not make a parent, spectator or coach immune from calling out if their child or team is hurt or threatened in some way. I have always believed those that blow the whistle, myself included, must elevate their knowledge and game management to reflect the spirit of integrity and fair play and provide a fun, safe experience for all concerned. In closing remember this final thought

This is a Game.

This Is Fun.

"Nothing is so firmly believed in which we know can least be disproved or
in absence of knowledge claimed as... truth

4. A Fledgling

By Otis Wirth - New Hampshire Soccer Officials Association Member

As I finish my initial year as the head referee in most matches, I can't help but think back to how much I've learned about officiating and myself. Never lacking confidence in my own abilities, I stepped out on the field only to find out two things. One- no one knew what kind of game I would call, because I was an unknown entity. Two- no one really cared who I was, as long as I put forth a quality effort that was consistent and fair to both teams. This article will try to focus on what I learned about myself all within the game of soccer.

I’ll begin by saying I had an absolute blast this season. That they actually paid me to go out on a field to run around, blow the whistle, talk with people who have common interests, manage emotions, and travel around New England during the most beautiful months of the year, is beyond comprehension. Yes I know I was paid to do a job, but think about it. Where else can you get paid for doing something you totally enjoy and staying fit at the same time? There were ups and downs during this season, but there was never a moment I regretted the decision to officiate.

I spoke with many officials this season and I constantly declared to them, "My learning curve is not a curve at all. It's a straight line going up at a forty five degree angle." What to call? What not to call? How to talk to players and coaches alike? When to assert my authority? When to step back out of the way and allow the game to flow? All questions that I’ve had to figure out. One thing is for certain, there is no one-way to officiate. What worked during one match, didn¹t work in another. Officiating is a complex profession. Not necessarily because it¹s difficult, but because there are small intricacies of officiating a match that you must experience before you realize what you are doing.

Every match taught me something about myself.

The two basic fundamentals that I learned early on were to dress looking like a professional and to arrive at the game site in a timely fashion. Dress appropriately in a sport coat, tie, pressed shirt and slacks, and polished shoes. I had to remember that these teams did not know me and first impressions could never happen twice. I had to project the image of confidence and professionalism each time I went to the game site. Arriving in a timely fashion is maybe even more critical. I had two games in which an assistant referee showed up as I was conducting the coin toss. Totally unacceptable. Not only did it make me and the other assistant look bad, but they were in a no win situation throughout the match. No matter how good they were during the match, the coaches and players first impressions were: "This person doesn’t want to be here today." How does an official climb out of that hole? I made a point to arrive at least ninety minutes before the start of the game. It allowed me to unwind from the stress of driving and to focus on a task for which I was being generously paid. By being there early, I could walk the pitch and talk to game personnel to ‘iron out’ many potential problems. It all goes back to doing the job that you were assigned to do - from start to finish.

I went to a conference a year or so ago and the guest speaker broke a soccer game down into six periods. The first, the middle, and the final fifteen minutes of each half. He alluded to the fact that in the first minutes referees must blow their whistle to establish what is going to be acceptable during this match. In the final fifteen minutes the referee must blow the whistle to control the emotions of the players as they press forward to net the equalizer or the go ahead goal. He went on to say that the middle fifteen minutes (if you’ve done your job properly in the first fifteen) is a time for the referee to enjoy the game as it was meant to be played. I took this as the Ultimate Law of Maintaining Control in a Match, as this speaker is a well respected, well traveled official. With all of that said, when I began this season I forgot all about his words of wisdom. I allowed players to take liberties on the field from the get-go and although it was an uncomfortable feeling for me, it was what I thought was ‘the norm’. These games were supposed to be a conglomeration of clutching and holding and unfair challenges on fifty/fifty balls. For the majority as an assistant referee, that’s the kind of game I witnessed. I remember thinking, ‘Why doesn’t that referee do something about it?’ But the more I witnessed, the more I thought that was the way it was supposed to be. Little did I know!

As I said, I began my season by allowing too much disorder during the match. I found myself carding players left and right trying to regain the control I lost or better yet - never had. Something had to give or I was going to hold the record for the shortest career of being a referee or the referee who blew his chance at breakneck speed. I could almost hear the players walking off the pitch wondering when they got drafted for duty in the armed services. To me, it was that bad. I wasn¹t used to this level of athlete. The professional fouls that the players were exhibiting. The general lack of respect for the opponent. I never felt like I was over my head, but I also never felt comfortable. Then along came a match I was assigned four months earlier. When I looked at my schedule in May, I said, "Wow, that¹s going to be a real gauge of my officiating skills." That match came before I knew it. And fortunately for me, it came at the right time.

The match was between two rivals. One team was already established as a quality club. The other was an up and coming team trying to break through the upper echelon of the league. I knew as soon as I saw this game on my schedule I would have my hands full. To further compound the ferocity of this match, the two opposing coaches are well known to be verbally abusive to referees. To make it simple, I was in a ‘no win situation’ doing this match. No matter how good or how bad I was, it wouldn¹t make a bit of difference. I went into the match knowing I already had lost in both teams and coaches’ eyes so why not give it everything I had? I was determined to blow my whistle a thousand times if necessary. There would be little or no play-on’s. I was going to ref this game like it was my last one (which it could have easily been.) After blowing a total of sixty three fouls, handing out five yellow cards, one red card (for a second yellow on one player) the two opposing coaches came to me at the conclusion of the match and said, almost in unison, "You'll never work for me again! You were awful". Was I surprised that this was their collective reaction? Not at all. It was at that moment, that I became a... Head Referee.

I officiated that game like the guest speaker I spoke about earlier said it should be done. I never had the luxury of ‘coasting’ the middle fifteen minutes, but that was all right by me because I was on a mission. I was going to do things my way. This game was not going to get uncomfortable for me. So I took the match away from the teams and made it mine. As a matter of fact, one of the coaches in the middle of the match bellowed out, "This game is not about you!" All of this sounds like I wanted to be the center of attention that evening, but that couldn¹t be further from the truth. My goal was to be true to myself and my style of officiating. My style had been to make sure all players remained safe and the level of play was one in which everyone plays fairly. Somewhere I lost sight of that. This match brought that all back into perspective. I am a firm believer that I must put forth a hundred percent effort in each match; blow my whistle to control the match to my satisfaction and to leave the pitch knowing I did my very best.

One of the two coaches sent the video of the match to the conference soccer commissioner, who also happens to be the assignor of officials. I called him as he was watching this video (unbeknown to me.) He pointed out that he was watching the video and would call me back. Several hours later I got the call. I didn't know what to expect. I know I left that match feeling good that I did what I thought needed to be done. I kept the match under control. He thought I did a nice job. At least that’s what he said? I’m not sure if he said that because he knew I was a fledgling or if he really meant it, but those were the right words to say at that time. My confidence soared. I had gotten the verbal affirmation that what I did was favorable. From that match on, my style has been a no nonsense approach. I go to the match to blow my whistle (not sixty three times I might add) and leave knowing I did my best and the match was under control.

I learned a great deal during and after that match. It’s important for me to leave each match knowing I gave a full effort and that I was true to myself and allowed the game to be played the way I think it should be played. I think as long as a referee can say, "I’m happy with the way I officiated today" and truly mean it, it doesn’t matter what the coaches or players say or do. We, as officials, can only do what we can do. Our job is to manage a highly emotional game by any means it takes.

I’ll end by saying that I finished the season issuing only six yellow cards in the last fourteen games. All this I attribute to going to a match, blowing my whistle, and organizing a fair game. I completed the post season as the head referee in a men¹s division three conference final, a women’s NCAA regional final, a men’s NCAA quarterfinal, and a men¹s NCAA regional semi-final. In those four post season matches, I issued only three yellow cards all in the first half of play as I was assuring players that the game was going to be played a certain way. Not too bad from where it all began. Somewhere out there, someone likes the job I did this past season. It was a tremendous growing season for me. I can only hope that what I learned this year will carry over into next season. I look forward to the challenge.

Good luck...

Otis Wirth

New Hampshire Soccer Officials Association Member


Unites States of America

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1. Referee abuse is it solvable or inevitable?

By Stephen Potischman

As referees, how many times have we heard: Ref., you have got to be kidding, or some variation on that theme? It does not seem to matter whether the game is a World Cup qualifier or an under-12 match. Players, coaches, and spectators seem to think that not only are we all deaf and blind, but that we don’t know and have no clue on how to apply The Laws of the Game (LOTG.) That attitude, which is exacerbated by the passion that this sport engenders, often gets expressed in abusive language, and all too often, physical abuse to referees. In effect, abuse of referees has become part of the game.

I took the referee’s course and passed the exam 5 years ago at the age of 45. I learned to play soccer as a child overseas, and then after returning to the USA, played in high school, college, and then for a couple of years on an amateur team. After my children were born, I coached my son in his youth soccer days, and then coached again for a few years after he moved up to high school soccer. Due to job constraints, I was unable to commit the time necessary to coach, so I decided to take up the whistle in order to maintain contact with the game I love. Most of my games are inter-town youth soccer matches in the Boston area, and the league in which I do most of my games is Boston Area Youth Soccer (BAYS.)

Every referee has had incidents where they’ve endured some form of abuse. In my case, and I would imagine for most refs., there were more incidents earlier in our careers. As we gain experience, we learn how to deal with, and thereby defuse certain situations that have the potential to turn into larger problems. We also get to know how much verbal nonsense to expect, and how much we’re going to take before we respond.

I am not a sociologist; I do not have a crystal ball, and I do not have any special insight as to why people think they have the right to abuse referees. It seems to me, however, that there is a connection between behavior in the world at large, and behavior at sporting events. In my opinion, people just are not as polite to each other as they once were. The world sporting news is full of incidences where ugly behavior is the order of the day: spectators fighting with spectators, players trash-talking, spectators berating players, coaches, and referees, and lately bottles being thrown at referees at two NFL stadiums in this country. I believe that ill behavior at professional (sporting events) has trickled-down through collegiate, amateur, school, and finally youth levels.

I was fortunate to find myself a mentor, although it was purely by coincidence. He happens to be a business associate, and when we learned that we are both referees, we started talking about incidences we’d faced on the field. He explained this tactic to me, which I’ve used three times in the last three years to my advantage. In youth soccer, the coaches are responsible for the behavior of the spectators. If a spectator (usually a parent) gets out of line, it is up to the coach to deal with him/her. When a parent becomes a problem, wait until the next stoppage in play. Call both coaches over to you, identify the problem individual, and ask the coaches "Whom does that person belong to?" When one of the two acknowledges it is his/her responsibility, send the other coach back to the bench, and say to the person in front of you "Please tell that spectator that unless he keeps his opinions to himself, I am going to throw you out of the game." It has worked every time.

An incident that taught me a lot about what the breadth of coaches’ can say and do was during a BU14 game I refereed early in my second year. It was a competitive, skilled game, and the home team was ahead by a goal going into what the coach thought was the final minute. (I had added 4 minutes of stoppage time onto the game.) The home team had lost to the away team earlier in the season, and they were hanging on for the win. A shot came in from the away team, and a home-team field player, who was standing on the goal line, punched the shot away. I sent him off for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity, and pointed to the penalty mark. The PK was taken, and the keeper saved the shot around the post. The ensuing corner kick resulted in an away-team goal. The stoppage time expired shortly after the kick off, and I blew the whistle. As I went to collect my flag from the club linesman, the home coach ran over to me and accused me of stealing the win from his team. I told him he was out of line, and walked away. The sadder part of the story was that the coach reiterated blaming me to the players and parents. They took him at his word, which was reflected in their faces as they walked off the pitch. He did them no favors by acting as he did. The players were taught an unfortunate lesson in how not to behave. I guess I was the only one who came away with a couple of valuable lessons:

1. Stick to your guns-enforce... LOTG.
2. Report this kind of behavior (I did not at the time, and regret it.)
3. Expect all kinds of people and all kinds of behavior.

Rather than continue with another doom-and-gloom situation, I would like to relate what was ultimately a positive experience. I had been refereeing a BU13 game, and was physically accosted on the field by a home-team parent. I abandoned the match, and was escorted to my car by the away-team coach and a couple of other adults. (The parent in question was banned for life from attending any youth soccer matches). About a month later, I was refereeing in a tournament. Much to my surprise, I found myself working a game with the same (away) team from the earlier incident. As I was standing on the touchline on the spectators’ side of the field, a couple of parents came over to me and said: "We are glad to see you are still refereeing. You should not let the behavior of one jerk keep you out of the game."

There is hope!

As an adult, I am better equipped to deal with the external pressures exerted on referees than are most teenagers. There are countless stories of coaches and parents intimidating young referees. It’s hard enough dealing with an irate, emotional coach as an adult. But for a young referee, in the vast majority of cases, it is a losing proposition. A young referee should be protected from an adult berating them. We need to develop young referees, as the game needs all the qualified referees we can get.

BAYS decided to implement a policy that was aimed at protecting referees, particularly the younger ones (the text of the policy can be found at The first iteration of the policy prohibited coaches and parents from speaking to the referee during the match, but allowed for non-confrontational questions to be asked during half time and after the match. This was later amended to prohibit speaking to the ref. at all, except to ask for substitutions, to alert the reef to an injury, etc. Criticizing the referee at any time is prohibited. In addition, the referee is allowed to show a yellow or red card to the offending coach if appropriate. While this contravenes FIFA’s LOTG, the intent is to keep the referee, particularly the younger ones, away from ill-behaved adults. I contacted BAYS to ask whether the implementation of the policy has increased the retention rate of younger refs, and they said that it has, although they didn’t have any statistics available at the time.

So, what is to be done? I wish I had the answers-I would be a hero. I believe that sports in general, and soccer in particular, need to have a comprehensive top-down/bottom-up strategy to cutting down on referee abuse. We on the lower rungs of the sport need to be protected with strict rules to punish any abusive individuals off the field, and we need to apply LOTG vigorously to those on the field. At the higher levels, there need to be meaningful penalties for players and coaches who abuse referees. Whether players are to be fined or suspended, it has to hurt them and/or the team in the pocketbook.

I hate to make this sound like a half-time speech. But I believe that if the status quo is going to change, we as refs. Have to be the catalysts. No one else is going to do it. No one else seems to see the long-term damage to the game.

Many thanks to Steve for his insight.

2. I feel sorry for these scapegoats

By David Aaronovitch

From ‘The Independent’, Tuesday 5th March 2002

ON SUNDAY night..., having fallen out with the majority of an audience of 700 wonderfully disputatious Jews, I stayed up late watching television to allow my heightened adrenaline levels to settle. On Channel4 they were showing the weekend’s football matches from Italy. For some reason (and it could have been the dour nature of the Inter versus AC Milan local derby) I found myself watching, not the players, but the referee. He was the bald, baked, charismatic Pierluigi Collina, who even soccer-haters may recognize from international matches.

Collina, I soon realized, was super-fit, in the old-fashioned sense. With each turn of play 20 players would thunder up the pitch, passing, dribbling, moving into space, shooting, marking, tackling, shouting, falling, gobbling on the grass (different from dribbling) and doing- at high speed-what world-class athletes do. Collina would move among them, at ground level, always trying to keep the ball in sight through the forest of bodies. His would be the judgment on the tackle that was unfair the hand-ball that was deliberate, the body-check that was obstructive, the backing-in, the advantage to be played, whether or not there was a goal-scoring chance (critical in deciding whether the commission of a foul merits a sending-off) and, of course, the penalty And all done immediately at that second, with only the judgments of his two line-bound assistant referees to help.

Coincidentally, next morning’s sports pages were led by a story concerning a British referee, Steve Dunn. With moments to go in Sunday’s match between relegation-threatened Derby County and title favorites Manchester United (see how that phraseology comes tripping off the pen!), Dunn disallowed a "goal" from a Derby striker that would have won the game for his side. Never mind the reasons — too boring. Anyway, afterwards Dunn found himself under assault.

The Derby manager, John Gregory a serial attacker of referees, claimed that Dunn had "bottled it" (i.e. been too cowardly to give the right decision), and that he had also ignored an earlier "blatant" penalty Even the BBC’s website seemed to question the ref’s judgment, saying: "If Manchester United go on to claim a record fourth successive Premiership this season, referee Steve Dunn is one of the first people they should thank."

Dunn had done his job. He’d made the best shout he could, and he was being roundly abused for doing it. No one was interested in the complexity of his decision. And he wasn’t alone. In several other Premiership matches at the weekend managers contested the referee’s actions. "I thought the referee had a poor game today" is now an almost inevitable accompaniment to the post-match press conference. Well, in times when sacking accompanies short-term failure, managers have the most to lose. But unless they believe that there is a particular mad refereeing animus against them, a rational boss has to concede that what he loses on the roundabouts he gains on the swings.

Where managers go, there go also the players, the commentators and the fans. Radio 5 Live’s Alan Green and Sky’s Andy Gray has now perfected the art of second-guessing the ref from the comfort of the commentator’s box (usually set, like Olympus, high above the contending mortals). Their contempt can be suitably ineffable. Supporters too - many of whom, from my own experience in the stands, have difficulty distinguishing between any two black players, whatever their heights and builds — "see" things that refs do not, and complain ceaselessly and inexpertly when things go badly.

In short, no one seems to respect referees any more. I trawled the web site of the Referees Association, which has 17,507 members. There, amongst the ads for refs’ accessories (a set of red and yellow cards, including indelible marker, just £1.60) and training courses, was an interesting message board. Yesterday one referee had written in supporting Steve Dunn and urging that more moaning managers be charged with bringing the game into disrepute.

Another, however, told a story which seemed to indicate where all this complaining was heading. "I was," he wrote, "helping out my mate who is a referee in a local under-13’s league. In the last minute he decided to book a player for dissent after having previously warned him on more than one occasion. The game finished, we shook hands with everyone, and as we were making our way to the changing-room, one of the parents came up to my mate and SPAT in his face ... it was the parent of the player who had been booked." Then he added, "The referee is 17 years old, and this is only his second season."

As it happens, two policemen were passing the pitch when this happened and nabbed the uncouth father. Charges will follow. Meanwhile, in a more senior amateur match, "the assistant manager of one team chose to attempt to bully and intimidate me into making decisions", wrote another official, "and spent his time belittling me and belittling the referee to me. At the end of the game he came into the changing room with a big grin on his face and expected me to shake his hand." The ref refused.

Of course I am not silly enough to think that ref bashing began with the millennium. But it is much more widespread now. The technology of replay has allowed everyone to have an "informed" opinion, without necessarily understanding the circumstances in which the original decision has been taken. We are all "as good" as the man or woman in black But we don’t carry the responsibility

Should we then feel sorry for them? Anymore sorry than for the NHS managers, ministers or Police Commissioners who also carry out incredibly complex tasks, and who are~ also - in these interferential days- slaughtered for getting it wrong?

Because I was a rather feeble manager myself, way back when, I have an innate, inconvenient sympathy with people who try to run things, and I experience discomfort when they are made easy scapegoats for systemic problems. It is the fashion to slag off politicians as well as referees, and I worry about that too. Most referees are not whistle-crazed jobsworths, and most politicians are not latter-day Borgias, yet we talk as though they were.

Perhaps I ought not to worry. No one is forced to become an MP or a referee. Presumably they enjoy the exercise of power a Ref’s website itself says,

"Men and women take up refereeing for a number of reasons. Many are frustrated footballers ... Some have come to the end of their playing careers and have decided to put something back into the game." It is, in many ways, healthy not to defer to people who set themselves up as decision-makers, and vital to subject them to scrutiny.

But if the lack of deference turns to ritual contempt, and the scrutiny to instant condemnation, then I think we’ll get worse refs and worse politicians. Worse matches and worse democracy. So the final word goes to another referee on the message-board. He was recommending making referees much more available to the press and media. "In my opinion," he wrote, "it is in the isolation of referees that we heighten, not lessen, the tensions."

Open government. Everything discussed, everything on display. That’s the ticket.

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