THE MAKING OF A REFEREE…………….Don McMahon
A recent article on the Footballroar website caught my attention and after reading it, inspired me to write this article. Here is the link to that article
The premise of this article is that former professional footballers are well placed and suited to become premier league officials because of their prior experience on the field, calmness under pressure and appreciation of how the game can be in a competitive environment.
While I do not disagree fundamentally with this premise, it is not the first time I’ve had it presented to me as a ¨solution¨ to the officiating malaise currently being recognized by supporters, some managers and many players.
The real problem is that, like many similar one shot ¨solutions¨ proposed by well-meaning commentators and fans, it misses a few fundamental points about what makes a good referee. When I say ¨good¨ I mean someone, regardless of gender or other considerations (other than severe physical disabilities like blindness, missing limbs, mental acuity, etc.) who can learn and apply the Laws of the game FIRMLY but FAIRLY. This definition comes from Sir Stanley Rous, CBE (25 April 1895 – 18 July 1986) was the 6th President of FIFA, serving from 1961 to 1974. He also served as secretary of the Football Association from 1934 to 1962 and was an international referee.
In my humble opinion, this defines what it means to be a referee perfectly, in just a few words! However there are many subsets to this simple meme and here are a few, which I am sure Walter and any other referee will agree with:
There are four essential factors that contribute to whether a referee will or will not become successful let’s start with the most important (vocational professionals all agree this is the number one factor) – PERSONALITY.
Basically this means that one’s traits of character can ensure success or cause great difficulties. What traits should a referee display in order to succeed?
- Patience – the ability to tolerate and endure whatever comes their way in the knowledge that impatience will work against them eventually,
- Empathy – the ability to understand and sympathise with others thus permitting them to humanise the Laws, which are after all just rules NOT commandments,
- Fairness – the ability to impartially judge what has and is happening and to deal with it in a balanced and just manner, of outside pressures,
- Humility – the ability to acknowledge, accept and manage one’s strengths and one’s failings in a mature way allowing one to avoid becoming the centre of attention
The next aspect and a vital element in becoming a successful referee is PASSION. This means being a true lover of the game and all it involves. Some of the fundamental aspects of this trait are;
- Eagerness – the feeling of being excited and motivated to get in the middle (or on the sidelines) and to be part and parcel of delivering the goods, ie: a beautiful match, beautifully officiated,
- Willingness – the urge to improve one’s performance continually, to accept positive criticism, to maintain one’s fitness, to welcome innovation and new ideas, to display courage and conviction in officiating the Game,
- Love – to love the Laws and protect them from abuse, to protect the players from avoidable injury, to care about the integrity and honesty of the Game, to do one’s best at all times out of respect for the letter and the spirit of the Laws and the Game
After that, there is EXPERTISE. This is defined as a mastery of the Laws, their on-field application and a constant personal re-education in all aspects of the Game and the IFAB changes and a willingness to learn new technology associated with the Game. Core elements of this trait are;
- Practice – requiring continual and unrelenting efforts to dismiss one’s weaknesses, improve on one’s strengths and upgrade one’s abilities, both physical and mental,
- Education – offering a referee the opportunity to relearn what one already knows, but from a different perspective, learn new approaches to officiating, and encounter alternative application of the Laws that may help the referee’s overall efficiency and effectiveness,
- Experimentation – being the willingness to try things they have seen other officials do that they deem helpful to themselves. This requires humility and openness to their colleagues skills and suggestions.
Finally there is KNOWLEDGE. Perhaps the most difficult aspect that a good referee MUST master. It is very easy to assume with only 17 Laws that are fairly uncomplicated, that it is easy to learn them and automatic to apply them. However there are criteria that are needed before one can really be knowledgeable;
- Discernment – providing the referee with the ability to read the Laws and their IFAB interpretations in an intelligent and insightful manner,
- Depth – offering the referee the opportunity to master the Laws in detail and to understand the letter and the spirit of FIFA’s rules and regulations for the Game,
- Flexibility – a willingness to interpret the Laws positively to encourage fewer stoppages, acceptance on the players’ part of the officials’ decisions and to respect officials as professionals and essential elements of the Game.
How many ex-professional footballers possess these qualities? I am sure there are quite a few BUT do they really want to undertake such a thankless job that is sorely underappreciated and under-compensated and whose st iress levels far exceed what the 22 onfield players are used to? I am sure UA Gooners can add to these criteria so please have at it.
And from the History Society