Walter Broeckx, who is himself a referee in Belgium and who writes the post match referee report on Untold, recently met up with a fellow-referee who recently retired from the game, having been a Fifa ref for 10 years and who handled many Champions League games.
How does it work when you get a CL (or EL) game?
The matches are given to a ref a few weeks in advance but they don’t tell him where and when. They just give the 3 possible dates and ask you to make sure you can be free. One week in advance you get the plane tickets and hotel accommodation. And then only 48 hours before the game the appointment gets official. But as a ref you can see which game you have because you know in which city so you can check which team is playing if there are two local teams .
Some 10 years ago those games were made public a few weeks before and then you had clubs who would invite the ref over for a few days before the game and give him “extras” but this has been changed after Uefa found out about those practices. Now you have someone from Uefa and from the national football league who is with the refs from the first minute to the last and who arranges the contacts between the clubs, the authorities like police, rescue services, and the refs.
Referees arrive one day prior to the game and the day of the match they have a briefing with the clubs in the morning to give some instructions about the game and to talk about the security around the game.
Then there is some free time to take a city tour and then lunch and some rest. The refs are at the stadium 90 minutes before kick off and then they have their usual match routine.
After the game they have to do the paper work and make reports involving the cards and they have to be transferred immediately to Uefa. And then time for a dinner in a restaurant and then to bed at 1 or 2 in the morning depending on whether they want to have a party with the rest of his assistants and refs.
And then just hope they don’t have an early flight back home so they can have a good night’s rest.
On the hot topic of goal line technology
I think it would be okay to use it but we have to consider that this is a situation which only happens a few times in a season. But as in the world cup when it happens and a goal is missed which could have been seen, had the technology been there. He said that this could be solved with the experiment now being undertaken using more officials. Other technology would be okay for him but not technology that stopped the game each time a question was raised, as this would kill football.
Interpretation within the offside rules would be a big difficulty in relation to using technology. Because you have to be actively participating in play to be in a punishable offside position, this is something no computer can decide for you.
And changing the offside rule and bringing it back in the old days where a player is offside if he participates or not would not be a good thing as it would kill football. So this referee wouldn’t change the rules at all as he thinks the rules are rather good for the moment.
Should fefs be paid more to make it possible that they can become full time refs?
This will help the refs with their focus and make life a bit more easy. The ref whom I spoke to has always done it doing a full time job as an executive in a bank but his employer has been very cooperative when he had to do international games. But is wasn’t easy through all those years and most of the week days he was some 10 to 12 hours away: first at his work, than at the trainings or doing an evening match. And when he reached the age where he had to stop as an international ref he decided to stop completely as a ref because he still would be 10-12 hours away each day and he just had enough of it.
So young refs in smaller countries have to make a choice somewhere and most of them work part time and are part time ref. He thinks this will change in some 10 years and full time refs in all countries where professional football is played will be the rule.
Have you been offered any moneyto change a game or a result?
No, never. But thanks to the new rules from Uefa it is more difficult to bribe a ref. But you never know what can happen to refs from very small and poor countries.
What is the difference between a top ref and a ref from lower divisions?
What doesn’t make the difference is fitness. You could have a ref as fast as Usain Bolt but he might be no good at seeing fouls. And it is not knowing the rule book from A to Z and back again that matters, because he admitted that he was not the person who knew the rulebook completely and he thought that there would be refs on a Sunday morning who knew the rules and the rule book far better than he has ever done.
But the difference is that a good ref should feel the game. He should read the game and he should be careful to see things that could make a game dangerous. Such as, of course, dangerous tackles. You have to feel how the players behave in the game to each other. Is there a special rivalry between two players from a previous game still visible or under the surface? Feeling those things and preventing anything getting out of hand is what makes one ref better than others.
You can do this by showing more cards from the moment you feel this or you can do this by blowing for more fouls to give the players the feeling that you will punish the little fouls so it is no use to try to charge wild tackling. You must feel this by taking a look at the teams and their usual tactics. If a team uses a special tactic that is not allowed you should know this and you should warn them and punish them when they employ that tactic. Do not focus on individuals too much as you should try to be fair at the start of a game towards all the players on the field.
So for him a good ref is one who feels the atmosphere between the players and is also not afraid to get his cards out when needed.
A ref is only as good as his last game.
The focus should be there for every game from the start till the finish. A player who scored a hat trick can get some credit the weeks after from the fans and the coaches. No such thing for a ref as he has to do his job in the right way each week And you do have good and bad days and the only way to handle a bad day is to think about your game, what you have done wrong (and what you have done right) and to try to learn from that. Always question yourself and your decisions and look back at it and try not to make the same mistake again.
Finally the issues of referees coming out after the game and explaining why they did something or have taken a decision.
In Belgium this is not the rule and for a long time it was forbidden for refs to talk to the press. But as he also did games in Holland he found out that in Holland there is a totaly different appraoch to this. Refs are allowed and even encourages to talk to the press after the game and give some explanation.
But the agreement is that the refs most be allowed to review the incidents on TV before commenting them. And he thinks this is a very good way to handle things. I have seen refs come out after a game in Holland where they have made a mistake and when they saw it on TV they admitted it and appologised for their mistake to the players, trainers and fans of the team. And this admitting a mistake is something that is appreciated and makes people realise that refs are human and can make mistakes. And admitting a mistake openly is the first step for being a better ref in the future.
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