SO YOU THINK YOU CAN BE A REFEREE……..Don McMahon
Recent events have convinced many football supporters that too many officials in the EPL are at the least, incompetent and at worse corrupt and manipulated by a cabal of PGMOL managers intent on preventing their Club from winning.
In this post I want to invite UA readers to delve into the complex universe of the referee and assistants on-field interactions to show what it really takes to be a successful official in Football:
IN THE LAND OF THE BLIND THE ONE-EYED REFEREE IS KING: Officiating successfully demands a few obvious but difficult skills.
The most important is a profound knowledge of the Laws, both in the letter and the spirit. It is crucial that the officials understand what the spirit of the Laws means. A truly blind referee applies the Laws regardless of the situation and circumstances and is so strict that players actually fear him or her as one fears an unsympathetic and cruel policeman.
The best referee applies the Laws with both firmness BUT fairness….which means he or she is concerned NOT just in strictly applying the rules but in looking after the players and the Game as well.
WE ARE ALWAYS SELLING OUR DECISIONS: A good official is mentally prepared for the stress and pressure of a large, semi-hostile crowd, managers and even players and is ready to disassociate himself as much as possible from their influence.
The best officials NEVER appear to be uncertain. They make the call but IF they find out that they made an error, they quickly and decisively correct it if at all possible. If not they acknowledge it to themselves and perhaps even to the players affected in an honest and dignified manner.
STYLE IS NICE BUT SUBSTANCE IS BETTER: The best referee is almost invisible and NEVER makes themselves the centre of attention or the centre of controversy.
The best referee I ever saw was a man who seemed to disappear into the field and suddenly pop up at the perfect moment to make a call or have a word with a wayward soul, all the while being both powerful but NOT the focus of attention.
FITNESS IS NOT JUST ABOUT STAMINA BUT ABOUT ANTICIPATION: Great referees read the Game like a chess match, anticipating almost unconsciously what might happen in the next few seconds.
The greatest skill we as spectators can see is when a referee plays advantage perfectly, giving the offended team a real opportunity to actually gain an advantage. The fit referee might run more than the average player and his or her running must put him or her in the best position, not only to see the action but also as often as possible, in line of sight with their assistants.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE PLAYED FOOTBALL TO BE A GREAT REFEREE: Some ex-players make great referees but many do not because the skill set and mental/psychological elements are different.
I was a pretty average player but an above average referee and while knowledge of the actual playing conditions and challenges helped a little, my character and personality were more suited to officiating than competing.
ROME WASN’T BUILT IN A DAY: Many neophyte referees want to do big games and handle important matches very early in their careers.
This is normal and admirable but NOT very pragmatic or reasonable. My first game as a professional referee (after half a dozen linesman assignments) was a limited success because I wasn’t prepared for the pace and outright speed of a professional game. I wanted to be everywhere at once and was so afraid of missing a call that I made a few clangers. The assessor gave me an average grade and told me to “stay out of the play” which meant I had been far too close to the ball they were jousting after.
YOU ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR NEXT GAME: Too many officials get a swollen ego after having a really good game and begin to assume they’ve mastered the complexities of officiating forever.
However hubris is a deadly weakness in officiating. I have seen FIFA referees screw up so totally that a beginning referee would not have made the same mistakes under similar circumstances. Each game is inevitably different from the previous or next match and while consistent preparation is important, a laissez-faire attitude can cause you trouble.
THE IMPORTANT THING IS THE JOURNEY NOT THE DESTINATION: If you don’t really enjoy the game, find players a pain in the posterior, hate having to keep in top shape, are uncomfortable with confrontation or making spot decisions and convincing others you know what you’re doing etc., then officiating is not for you.
However if you cannot have FUN when you step on the field and cannot enjoy the feeling of being in charge of a great sports event, of helping players have a good time and play safely…….then officiating is definitely NOT for you. The best referees feel that officiating is a calling, a vocation and are passionate about doing their best to aid the players, spectators and other stakeholders to play the best Football they can.
Finally there is NO SUCH THING as an unimportant game.
I have officiated top professionals and WC champions as well as countless amateurs whose skills and abilities were far inferior to the pros, BUT they deserved the same performance from me regardless…..anything less would be unethical, unprofessional and unfair.
Also published today
- Arsenal in the 70s, part 14. Jan to June 1975 – trying to send Tottenham down
- Fans will love this newest addition to Arsenal
- Arsenal were the best performing team over Christmas – at least for the moment
- 3 January 1951: Having rejected by Wolverhampton Dennis Evans was signed by Arsenal for £1500. He subsequently played over 200 games for Arsenal – his only club.
- 3 January 1977: Alan Hudson, the man who quite amazingly gave Stoke City creativity, made his debut with Arsenal in a 1-1 draw with Leeds in front of 44,090 spectators.