Category Archives: Blog

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!

The biggest comeback since ‘Ole Blue Eyes

It is 08.25pm on a Sunday evening and I’ve spent the weekend officiating.  Not coaching – as I normally do – but actually officiating!

I started running the line on the Supply League in 1983 and yesterday afternoon I did another, it was more technical than I remember it.  In the second half my attacking side seemed to be always chasing towards my goal-line.

Perhaps it was me feeling my plenty of years or they were in the ascendancy, either way I discovered some things that you have to do as an assistant in today’s game.

Firstly, you have to hold your flag more to ensure that the player in an offside position actually becomes the person who is offside. When I was a Supply League linesman the first time we simply had to give anyone who was even level with the second last defender offside.

Secondly, you need to develop a greater ability to make eye-to-eye contact with your referee just so when you’re indicating a possible offside offence the referee may decide to play on because of the interpretation of the Laws.

Thirdly, you must decide what is offside and stay consistent with your interpretation throughout the game. If I was to run the line again – and that’s a big “if” – that is something I would certainly bring into my game.

I felt a certain inconsistency with giving some offsides and not giving others. Somuchso I’d like to see a recording of some of the offside decisions I made because I felt they were inconsistent.

Playing the game again I think I’d give more offsides than I gave – only 1 or 2 I hasten to add – especially as I coach young officials that defensive free kicks go away but goals don’t! And with a flag in my hand I’m playing with the referees’ marks.

I’m talking about having a decision in my locker that allows me to be consistent with myself.

The Law states: A player is in an offside position if any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.  The hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers, are not considered.

Make no mistake none of my decisions were seen as “howlers” by the players or spectators but I didn’t have an “offside” or a “not offside” decision in my locker before the game started.  If I line again I now have that decision.

So you can either be a “I must see clear daylight between opponents before I think about giving offside” assistant referee or “if I see the attacker only part in front of the defender I think about giving offside” assistant referee but you cannot be both for that match!

So two things that will be in my brain next time are “what is offside to me” and to remember “I’m playing with the referees’ marks throughout the whole entire match.”

Category: Blog, Newsletter

Do you REALLY know what you’re doing?

On Tuesday evening I went to watch a young referee to offer him some advice about how to become a brilliant referee; on Sunday I shall be coaching at the Academy in the hope of creating excellent young referees who will continue up the ladder and reach the highest echelons of the game.

Both coaching sessions share one thing in common – the officials want to be at the next level up. In my opinion this desire to be at the next level up creates the mass of level 4s, some who either quit too early or some who sit at this level for years longer than they would have done if only they’d learnt their trade at the lower levels.

The referee on Tuesday evening said that because the game ended 11-0 it was a game with very few learning points in it. REALLY?

One of the referees on Sunday has said he prefers refereeing the older age groups. REALLY?

Our referee on Tuesday had a million and one learning points to understand from the 11-0 however I stopped on 3 because any more than 3 would be confusing.

The referee on Sunday is saying “give me games that stretch my control” rather than “give me games which allow me to totally understand and practice the correct positioning and signals in an environment which is skilful but most importantly safe”.

If you want to be successful at refereeing and I’m talking really successful at refereeing, not just one of the masses of level 4s which are the backbone of the referees, it is my opinion that you have to totally understand the game and your part in it.

It means raising your standards to such a level that the observer says “nothing happened because of the referee’s superior knowledge”.

It means raising your standards to such a level that the clubs say “they feel that confident in what the referee is doing that they will not try anything untoward”.

It means raising your standards so that every decision is just accepted because you showed the correct level of intensity; you showed empathy for the match and you showed a superior knowledge of football and footballers.

That comes from knowing your game and that is achieved by understanding what you did and the outcome you got from what you did.

It means knowing where to be to give great decisions, it means knowing how to signal perfectly for simple things like throw-ins, goal kicks and corner kicks.

It means knowing how to project yourself so that everyone else knows you’re the person who is in charge.

When I passed my exam many years ago I was told by my examiner to remember that 22 people could have a football match without a referee, I subsequently added (years later) that they couldn’t have a good game without us!

Make your next game the start of really understanding what your actions do for the game.

I may not have been the best referee on the planet but I did every game properly and I implore you to!


You have to, because for some of the players it could be their most important game ever.