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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!

AND DON’T THINK YOU WILL PLEASE ALL OF THE PLAYERS!

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 all in the selling of it.

I was sitting watching the half time chat between Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright with the inward chuckle (well grimace) when our supposed experts misinform the great British public about what is and what is not the Laws of the game.  The game in question was West Ham United and Manchester City in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup.

This particular discussion centred around the West Ham player who was “wiped out” by the Manchester player, in the penalty area, crucially after he’d got his shot away. Gary (like you and me) thought it should be a penalty, whereas Alan and Ian subscribed to the view that as he’d got his shot away unchallenged it was not a penalty!

This creates problems for you and me on a Sunday morning when we correctly award the penalty!

You can hear the players shouting at you from here, saying such things as: “But Alan and Ian said it was not a penalty and they’re on the TV!”

This incident got me thinking about how to point out that you MUST deliver what the game expects; not what the Law states, if you want to be an upwardly mobile referee.

At our London FA training events we speak about good referees having on their tombstones the words “But I was correct in Law” and this is a good example. As a fellow referee (and observer) I will support you to the hilt if you give THE penalty but the clubs will be perplexed by the decision.

How do we sell the penalty when Alan and Ian have told us it’s not one?

That is the million dollar question we must answer if we want to get on!

But Alan and Ian are not all bad news for us – in fact this weekend just gone they – well Alan in particular – was like a refereeing brother to us!

Sam Allardyce came on the TV moaning about the fact that the referee should have stopped the play when his player was suffering with what looked like cramp.  We will ignore that the player managed to “struggle” back onto the field before signalling he was injured!

Alan came onto the TV and told us that Big Sam was wrong.  The referee can and should only stop the match for a serious injury. Well said Alan!

Now one suspects he’s got someone whispering in his ear – someone like an ex-FAPL referee – and that’s great news for you and me!  We can happily play on with the game because Alan has told the great unwashed it is okay to do so.

But let us go back to the unanswered question: how do we sell the penalty and push our refereeing forward?

We both know the correct answer is to give the penalty when the fouled player doesn’t score – if you’ve seen the challenge you have to give the penalty but in today’s climate it should only be a yellow card because the offender made an effort to play the ball.

And that has to be sold because Alan and Ian have told us that if the player got the shot away then we move to the next phase of play!  Sometimes Alan’s words leave us in a difficult situation – but as official’s we have to deal with it – but the important thing is to sell your decision to all those in the game.

Using such words as “I was playing an advantage” or “I was trying to keep the game flowing” are great selling phrases we can use to help sell our decision.

Obviously if the ball goes in the goal – that’s the simple job – give the goal and get back to the half way line unless the challenge leaves the scorer writhing in agony, which means you sort out the scorers injury and deal with the fouler as the game dictates.

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

If the games doesn’t expect it – you need to sell it and as if to underline that I asked my great mate Mark – who is a West Ham season ticket holder – who the player was who was fouled and he needed reminded of the incident because Feghouli (who was fouled by Clichy) had got his shot away and in Mark’s mind the referee had nothing to do as the error was the West Ham player who missed the goal!