Keep in mind the F word please

I was watching one of my young charges on a parks game – he was doing okay to very good and I was thinking I needed a more dynamic performance.

Towards the end of the match I was standing behind the club lino (of the winning side) watching the referee (and I mean simply watching –no notebook or iPad to record the match) when the lino shouted to his keeper “I think the referee is the best one we’ve had this season!”

Now this could have been shouted for my ears but the keeper shouted back “I think he’s the best we’ve ever had!”

Throughout the match both sides had been on his shoulders with the normal stuff.

Normal stuff?

Referee he’s pushing me; referee he’s pushing my mate; referee that’s our throw; referee that’s offside; referee, that’s never offside.

Normal stuff!

As I said I wanted my man to be more dynamic, get out wider at goal kicks and also get out of the middle of the park and boss the throw-ins without becoming officious but I didn’t think he was the best referee they’d ever seen.

Of course, I’ve haven’t seen every game they’ve ever had so I couldn’t comment about him being the best.

So I asked the lino what made my man the best they had this year. He said: “he didn’t stop for each little push, he let the game flow!”

So there we have it – the club lino using the F word.

The top boys definitely want it and so do the teams down on the local leagues it seems.

A game that flows, they didn’t want the referee to stop for every single little foul, although they moaned about them!

Unlike the top boys they were not looking for a numerical advantage or a moving game so they could expose the opposition’s poor organisation they simply wanted a game that was allowed to breathe.

I can promise you the lino’s side were not winning because they’d kicked their way to that position – the referee had been consistent to both sides and they both appreciated it.

He’d allowed the game to flow in his own little way. He’d ignored the little pushes and the tiny ankle taps caused by a lack of skill. He’d allowed both sides to play with a bit of physicality and both sides appreciated it.

How can I say both sides?

At the end of the game both sides queued up to shake his hand and also when the lino and his goalkeeper was exchanging views no one from the opposition took umbrage and disagreed with the sentiments!

So on the basis of two games I’ve witnessed on the parks I would ask the question of you: are you foul spotting every little push or ankle tap and is it ruining the enjoyment of the teams?

If you listen to the comments of the sides you will hear whether your performance is being appreciated or tolerated.

To answer the unasked question you may have: our colleague did give fouls to both sides and did caution for a robust challenge after 30 minutes – so he wasn’t being alternative in his application of Law.

Which then leads me to repeat the question: are you simply foul spotting, taking no risks and blowing your whistle?

If so, try to use the F word more in your games please.

The teams will appreciate it.

But if the village idiots in the games don’t want to allow a game breathe then I’m afraid you’re foul spotting! Thankfully, those idiots are few and far between.

Category: The Renegade

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.


I’ve seen two referees in the last 3 weeks who were both guilty of the crime – yes you’ve read it right – the crime of not getting close to the play, plus neither of them appeared to know that 100/1 shots do occasionally win.

Let’s start putting some flesh on “The Crime”.

Sometimes it’s committed because the referee is not fit enough, other times it’s committed because the referee lacks the awareness of “there could be a potential flashpoint so I’ll get closer to the action.”

FITNESS – The other Sunday when sitting in a FA Core meeting someone said “if they took a photograph of the teams would you be out of place in it?”

Looks are not a measurement of fitness, but our game (refereeing) is built on perception.  Do you look as fit as the players do? Actually, you want to look the fittest person in the photograph.

Then of course, you want to back that look up with fitness.  And here’s the kicker – we can all get fitter than we are now, it will not happen tomorrow but if we persist in our training – pushing it up bit by bit we will get fitter.

It’s the same as losing weight – if you lose an ounce a day, you’ll lose over 1½ stones in a year.

So take the longer view to fitness and just improve one little bit every time you run and very soon you’ll be giving Mo Farah a run for his money, presuming someone sponsors him to drink eight pints a day and he sticks to it!

Have a goal to either run a bit further in your training time or take less time to cover the distance you run for or make sure your heart rate remains the same over time but the run is getting more difficult.

All of the above will ensure that you are getting fitter.  And remember you’re not looking to win the gold at the next Olympics; you’re looking to gradually improve over time.

The next thing that creates “The Crime” is either laziness or lack of awareness.  If there is at least one player from the opposition near the ball, we have the potential to have a flashpoint.

99 times out of 100 the player with the ball will safely play it before the opposition get close enough to cause you a problem, but on that 100th time all hell will break loose and if you’re sitting in a deck chair on the half way line waiting for the ball to be played (along with the rest of the teams) your match control will be shot.

So always get close to the ball – even if it is obvious to everyone else that nothing will happen, this way you’ll increase the chances of nothing happening because you’re there.

That way, when it does happen you’re on top of it and even if it doesn’t happen the observer will/should say “nothing happened because the referee was there!”

On one of the games I was watching – the referee turned down a penalty but the team who would have benefitted had a legitimate shout at the referee because he was in the car park (in other words – he was not close to the action!), whereas they would/should have said “I thought it was a penalty but look where the referee was!”