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The Renegade Ref says “Get into both camps!”

As I grow older and I do more coaching of youngsters (well I call them all youngsters) I realise that refereeing is a without a doubt a thankless task. I knew when I was active as a referee that we could never win; now I know that more than ever.

What makes me so sure?

Did you see the rugby on Saturday morning on Sky Sports? The British Lions were playing the All Blacks in Wellington, New Zealand.  Right at the end of the show was a real demonstration of the thanklessness of refereeing.

At the end of the match – which the British Lions won by 3 points – the former All Black player (Sean Fitzpatrick) who was on the panel said he thought the referee did well; the former British Lion – whose name I do not know as he was a replacement for Ian McGeechan – disagreed with him!

The reason? The former Lion wanted the referee to allow the game to flow more.  The British Lions had won the test and the referee had sent a New Zealand player off for a seriously bad tackle. Yet, the winner wanted the referee to let it flow more!

Now here we have two former international rugby players who cannot agree whether the referee did a good job; what hope do you and I stand if international players cannot agree on the quality of the official?

So the simple answer is: Referee how you see fit!

In the office (to create a debate we’ve split into two groups: The “The Execute the Law” group and the “Give What the Game Expects” group.

Both have good arguments attached to them but I think the truth is that you should be a referee who can be in both camps at the same time – or for you intelligent referees: simultaneously!

Because if you’re in the Execute Group you will call the game off if there are no corner flags or the nets aren’t tied back correctly. If you’re in the What The Game Expects Group you could “miss” a yellow card because the players are mates, which could start the next world war.

Now being in both groups is not the easiest thing to do and you will still incur the wrath of some of the players whatever you do – but please get into both groups and have the ability to favour one group in the 1st minute and the other group in the 2nd minute, etc.

In other words: Be Flexible!


As the meerkat says: Refereeing is simples!

In other words: if you’re going into refereeing to become more popular – DON’T

The Renegade Ref says it is not black and white!

Recently a member of the A&H staff published a Law question which I’ve repeated below.

“Sergio Aguero takes a penalty. Before the penalty is taken Gary Cahill encroaches. Aguero’s penalty hits the post and Aguero gets to the rebound first. Cahill then clears the ball off of the line, over the crossbar and out of play.

The referee must:

  1. Award a corner kick
  2. Send off Cahill for DOGSO
  3. Retake the penalty
  4. Award an Indirect Free Kick to the defence for a double touch

Now there are two answers to this question!

The question is: What MUST the referee do? And the answer is obviously 3) Retake the penalty!

And that is a great question, with the correct answer.

But what do the teams expect if Cahill has “only” encroached by a metre? The answer to us as active referees on pitch 7 of the local rec is 4.

Teams expect that a small encroachment is no encroachment; therefore the double touch is the only offence, in their minds, that has been committed.

Even that will need some explaining to the great unwashed because as seen on Sunday in the international rugby match (England versus Italy) players don’t know the Laws!

If we say that refereeing is about delivering “no surprises” then we give them an Indirect Free Kick for the touching it twice before anyone else has, if we say our job is to teach them the Laws then we have a retake for the encroachment!

Now this is an extreme example and we wouldn’t dream of doing anything like this, would we?

But what happens with throw-ins in our games?

The Law states that the ball must be thrown back in where it left the field of play – do we enforce this or do we allow the players to take the throw-in where all of the players expect it from?

In other words for throw-ins do we go with answer 4) rather than 3)?

What about the simple Law about the goalkeeper can only hold the ball for 6 seconds and us applying that or where is the correct position for a defensive free-kick when both sides want to get on with it?

It is us applying the practical over the technical, isn’t it?

And that’s the real joy of refereeing, learning what we have to do in all situations to keep the game moving along to a fair conclusion as far as we’re concerned and as far as the players are concerned.

The Renegade Ref says “It’s the small things that count!”

I ended last week’s newsletter with the immortal refereeing words:

I guess the thing that will stand you in good stead is knowing that all decisions need to be sold all of the time.”

But that is only the start of it!

Two seasons back I went to watch a referee who was in the shake-up to get promoted and at the same ground a couple of weeks later I went to watch a referee who was in the “be careful, be very careful” category.

The first referee did get promoted at the end of the season and the other referee was “very careful” and is still on the list.

After watching the first referee strut his stuff – extremely well – I turned up to the second match thinking I was going to witness a train crash.

I didn’t witness any such thing – our “endangered” referee put on a very good performance, somuchso I could not understand why he was where he was on his merit list.

Now of course I may have been lucky and seen him on a good day, but I suspect not.

The difference between the two was how they went about selling their decisions and themselves.  Which leads me to talk about the silly things that you and I don’t give a second thought to.

Such as: your e-mail back to the club secretary; the time you arrive at the match; your method of announcing that you’re there; your reading of the League Rules and your application of them, etc, etc.

This week I want to talk about the referee who turned up at a game and he had shoes that could do with a lick of polish and trousers that could have been improved by looking at a press plus of course, wearing a tracksuit jacket at the wrong level does nothing for how your refereeing is perceived.

I’m not kidding here: club secretaries will make their decision on your performance on how you present yourself to them.  The home club person will be so busy running the ground they will barely have time to see your performance.

Our referee who got promoted opened the door to the Club Secretary, whereas the other referee just shouted out “come” when the door was knocked by the secretary.  Now maybe it didn’t change a thing – but why run the risk?

Make sure that you treat everyone with respect and dignity, make sure you have clean shoes, football boots, kit and outdoor clothes and make sure you look correct at the level you’re officiating at.

If you turn up at Hackney Marshes in a tuxedo or at Old Trafford in a pair of swimming trunks you are asking for the secretary to mark you badly!

Think about how you’re perceived by everyone, ignore what your peers are doing and you should make it to the very top!

Oh and I forgot to mention: remember to look well groomed! I would say clean shaven but if you’re sporting a “full set” it doesn’t need to be shaved off, but two days growth looks like you couldn’t be bothered.


Category: Blog, The Renegade