The Renegade Ref says You Can Be Wrong But Still Right!

Coached two games this weekend.

Both refereed excellently but both referees could improve the selling of their decisions, and notice I have spoken about the officials selling their decisions!

Sometimes you can make the incorrect decision and because you’re there everyone accepts the decision as correct.

If you think about it every decision is either correct or incorrect!

However, you can make the incorrect decision and get it accepted whereas sometimes you make the correct decision and get grief for it because you’re not selling the decision well.

Generally, the selling or not selling of the decisions is down to positioning of the referee or it could be inconsistency in their eyes – last time that was not a foul and this time it was.

On Saturday our referee gave the home side a free kick just outside the opposition penalty area, near to the goal line, and the away side conceded the equalizing goal from there.

It doesn’t matter that the home team were allowed three shots at goal before they scored the referee was blamed for the original free kick!

The challenge with the free kick was a simple one and it probably was a free kick but the referee was not in a good position to give the free kick.  Let me stress – it probably was a free kick but it was not accepted by the away side because the referee was not in a good position to give it.

As I keep saying when I’m talking to my referees – a defensive free kick is very rarely remembered, if a team scores from an attacking free kick it will never go away, ever!

That doesn’t mean you don’t give attacking free kicks! It means when you give an attacking free kick it most definitely was a free kick and you can sell it.

Our guy Saturday needed to be more “side-on” to sell it.  Just to re-iterate he probably was right with his decision but the away team told me they didn’t think it was a foul and I couldn’t say: “look where the referee was, he was a lot closer than me or you, so it must have been.”

Bear in mind that the credibility of the decision is as equally important as its accuracy.

But here’s thing that does my little brain in – regardless of where the referee was the game would have expected the official to give the defence a free kick.

Let us leave Saturday and go to Sunday. – this is how it looked – when the referee was standing next to the incident he gave a foul if it was a foul, when he was not next to the foul he didn’t give a foul if he could not be sure. Now this was perceived as inconsistent because that’s how it looked!

He was most certainly correct in Law but incorrect in the eyes of the clubs.

How do you combat “inconsistency” in your own performance?  (Bear in mind, you cannot be consistent with the referee last week because that’s impossible.)

First rule of consistency is remembering what you did last time. If you gave a foul last time either give it again or play on so loud everyone knows you’ve made a decision.

If you do nothing then you look inconsistent, whereas if you either give the foul or play on you look consistent.  In my experience it doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong!

Now both the incidents could have been read correctly by the official, the one close to him was indeed a foul and the one away from him was a fair challenge, but the unfortunate thing is that the clubs thought he was inconsistent because he didn’t do anything with the second foul!

You can say if the referee did both things well surely he should be rewarded for that – and you’d be correct but clubs do not think like that!

Finally let me leave you with a thought – why am I right when I am wrong and on the flipside wrong when I am right?  That is the conundrum that you have to work out the answer to if you want to move up the leagues.

The Renegade Ref says They Are The Most Important People To You

It is easy to talk about the need to be a great communicator if you’re talking about club secretaries or players.  But the most important people on your team are your assistants. Do you ever consider how you speak to them?

Do you ensure that all of your communications with them are not only polite but also fun to have (for them) and easily understood?

Why is that?


If it is the observer’s fault that you have refereed badly you have given control of your career to the observer!

If it is the secretary’s fault, you have given control of your career to the secretary!

Likewise if it is the assistants fault, you have given control of your career to the assistant!


Take back control this season and take the blame for all of your bad performances, because when it goes well it is all you, so when it goes wrong it cannot be the assistants, the secretaries or the observer!

I am saying if the former is true – so the latter must be down to you and you alone.

If it is all down to you then if your assistants cause you challenges then you spoke to them wrongly! Normally this is boring them to tears and not being rude to them.

You bore them to tears with instructions that make you feel good rather than give them instructions designed to make them feel good.

How do I know this?

Because when I ask a referee do they listen to instructions when they are assistants they generally look down and shuffle their feet. They say they only listen to anything the referee does differently.

QUESTION: So how do you give instructions that get your assistants to listen to every last word of them?

ANSWER: You get them to give your instructions!


You get them to give your instructions by asking them questions about the different aspects of the instructions and also by telling stories about things you liked and things you didn’t like.

Example following:

SPEAKING TO AR1: What is the most important thing to you as a referee when spotting offside offences?

SPEAKING TO BOTH: Right we will (hold our flag or stay in line or etc, etc, etc.) as AR1 says because that is important to us as a team.

SPEAKING TO AR2: What is the most important thing to you as a referee when dealing with offences?

SPEAKING TO BOTH: Right we will (hold our flag or stay in line or etc, etc, etc.) as AR2 says because that is equally as important to us as a team.

And if either of them hasn’t mentioned your most important thing say it now.

SPEAKING TO BOTH (As an example): Remember that between us we would rather be late and right than early and wrong when giving offsides!

I saw an assistant who flagged too early and it caused the referee immense problems protecting the assistant for the next five minutes.  How do I know that? I was the assistant who flagged too early.


Two things to say about instructions: Always have a routine to follow and if you major on mass cons what does that say about your refereeing?

A good routine to follow is to go around the field of play: Start with admin, then go to the touchline (Throw-ins – hands and feet), then goal-line (goal kicks and corner kicks), then in-field (offsides & fouls), penalties and finally (very briefly) mass cons.

That way you will never be umming and arring when the secretary interrupts you because you will know what you’ve spoken about.

And to further illustrate this we are running a webinar about instructions very shortly which you will get told about. Currently I’m talking to the providers to ensure that you can logon to your PC, tablet or phone vey simply and can watch the PowerPoint and films easily and simply.


Because I don’t want you to blame me if it all goes wrong!

The Renegade Referee says Ask Yourself What The Players Want

This close season I’ve been struck by the number of referees who do not appear to be willing to referee differently and, in my opinion, will only get promoted because it is their turn.

Now this could be because that is the personality of the referee or the personality of their referee coach or they are just scared to put themselves out there for fear of failure.

The personality of the referee is important when it comes to how high they will climb in refereeing circles.  If they are scared of failing then they will not risk trying anything new on the field, and this could leave them stuck where they are.

Remember the old saying: if you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you’ve always got!

Read this again please because it is important in refereeing and every part of your life.

Of course, when as a referee you do try something new and it comes off for you then that will become the norm for you as an official.

So if you want to get on – try something new and see what the reaction is.  New means something acceptable to the game (I don’t mean refereeing naked or using profane language or etc, etc, etc!)

What could you do that’s within the spirit of the game? Like commentating out loud or playing on even if a player has been pushed slightly or allowing free kicks to the defence to be taken from anywhere in the defending third – but remember every defending kick must come out of the penalty area!

I read this newsletter out to our resident referees and the level 5 wanted me to change the defending free kick placement to within 5 metres of the offence!

But if you listen to footballers – they seem to want to get the game playing as soon as possible (unless they’re winning with two minutes to go).  In this example, as the referee all you need to ensure is the side taking the free kick are not taking it from the wrong place to “take out” the opposition.

Get the game going as soon as possible in the defensive third is a good thing to try, but remember that if you get the ball correctly placed then you are being correct in Law, therefore an observer cannot mark you down (but the clubs can!)

Then we move onto the referee coach – their ideas about your role will influence how you referee.  If your coach has officiated or played at a higher level they will coach you in the ways that they wanted referees to be at that level; if your coach was always on the parks as a player and/or a referee they will want you to referee differently.

Neither is right or wrong – but the simple thing is to understand where they are coming from and ask yourself what do you want to achieve?

The most important thing is to adapt your officiating to the level of football you are officiating at – generally the more skilful the player or team – the more they want you to keep the game flowing.

I maintain that observers will simply watch your level of empathy and control of the players and ensure that you are giving the game what it expects.  So before your next game ask yourself: what do the players expect from us as the officials?