Tag Archives: Preparation

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


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!”


The difference between polished and clean

I’m currently putting some thoughts down for new referees to improve their chances of success.  I thought you might like to read this chapter about boots.

Let me keep this simple: there’s a world of difference between having clean boots and polished boots. And they’re both on another planet when compared to “caked-in” mud boots!

I know that some say that shiny shoes are the sign of a warped mind (and in my case that’s probably correct) but they also show authority!

Now I don’t want to sound as if I’m a military man but I was brought up by a man who served in the RAF during WW2 and my father-in-law was in the RN during the same conflict.

So I’ve been brought up to appreciate the value of a clean and polished pair of shoes!  Even today the shoes I’m wearing to work positively shine.  If they don’t then they will get polished.

It is the same for my football boots.  Not for me these nambie-pampie super mauve or yellow boots.  Plain black highly polished.

Saul in the office agrees saying “I wear a black kit therefore I wear black boots!”

You are the authority – you have to look ship shape to underline that authority.

Polished boots show to the players, management and spectators you’re taking your role seriously; they also tell you that you mean it!

When you look down and your boots look like they’ve been polished to within an inch of their lives you feel good.

But there’s more:


You always clean your boots with hours of the game finishing.


Because dried mud is the devil’s own job to remove from boots and it generally means you’ve got to wet your boots again.

Plus it cannot do your boots any good to dry out caked in brown stuff.  And if you’ve spent a tidy sum on them you’ll want value for money.

Plus – if you haven’t cleaned them – every time you think of your boots you think I’ve got to clean them!  So instead of a warm glow when you think of your boots – all I’ve got to do is polish them – you have a feeling of dread – I’ve still got to clean my boots and if the assessor sees them like this that’s my mark down the toilet.

So as soon as you can remove all excess mud.  Smart referees have a bag for boot cleaning which includes a knife, brush and damp cloth (well it doesn’t have to be damp all the time just a cloth you can dampen to clean off the last remnants of the game!)

Once you cleaned off your boots you can put them away for the next game.

Now my recommendation is you clean them outside of the dressing rooms however if you really feel it’s wise to clean them in your dressing room then as a current L3 referee says: “clean up after you”


Because if the guy cleaning the dressing rooms knows the person marking you and you leave your room looking like a bombs gone off in it never guess which way your hard earned marks are going!


Now polished boots separate you from the herded masses of referees who either have caked boots (10%) or clean boots (80%).

But there’s more – the actual act of polishing your boots tells your sub-conscious that you’re getting ready to officiate.  Whilst you’re polishing you can be practising what you’re going to say to the skippers, your assistants or your club linesmen.

Then when you’ve finished polishing them you just feel good because you’ve done something positive towards a great performance; you feel like you’re ready for your match and you feel like you’re in the top 10% of referees (because you are!)

And here’s the thing: if you think I’m talking bananas I want to thank you because you’re another referee out of my way on my way to the top of the tree.

If you think I’m talking bananas consider this the next time you get in a mini-cab: what gives you confidence that the driver knows what he’s doing?

If the cab is strewn with litter you will have a bit of a challenge with the rest of the journey, whereas when it’s spotless you automatically feel more comfortable.

So join the top 10% and polish your boots.

Now you’ve finished reading about referee I’d like you to visit here.  To support men’s health!