One of Corin Readett’s ideas when he was the RDO for Berks & Bucks FA, was the introduction of a County Roadshow. Something similar happened a few years ago, when a team of referee instructors in the Allied Counties visited branches in Berks and Bucks with a little playlet. Corin’s idea was a little different however, as individual referee tutors (instructors new name) would visit branches with a variety of topics; a different branch, a different tutor, a different topic each month. All referees throughout the Allied Counties would be invited, (you probably received the invitations through e-mails) to visit each branch when their roadshow was being presented. How many referees took advantage of these opportunities is not known but we were the last to be visited and conducting the session was Alf Field. Alf is a Level 2 Tutor and a former Level 3 referee from Chiltern RA and his subject had the somewhat ambiguous title of “Crossing the Line”.
The purpose of the meeting, Alf said was ‘To identify what is expected of us as referees to develop our skills and understanding to become better referees’
What do I mean by this? Alf asked. Partly the physical line, but on field offences, off-field offences and our tolerance levels. What tolerance levels should we have and what about officials and spectators. Some members took the phrase crossing the line literally, what happens after you cross the touch line to start the game but it became evident that really what was intended was inappropriate behaviour not only from players but team managers and spectators and in particular, we were looking at dissent.
Alf split the meeting into groups to discuss these questions and rather unusually, they were grouped by level, in other words groups consisted of level 5 or level 6 for instance, rather than the normal mixture of levels. The groups would then be required to report back their conclusions. Tolerance levels are a difficult subject. Is your level the same if you are refereeing a top game or under 13s? Should there be a different level in the first minute or last minute? Players will always appeal but what can make it different is the manner that it is done, is it aggressive, do they keep coming back to it and of course the language that they use. Most members agreed that those who dispute everything are the worst but usually they will at some time cross the line of what is acceptable. Don’t ignore dissent even though it may not be worth a caution but let the player know you have heard it and do not approve. Think of the words you are going to use, what suits one referee may not be suitable for another referee but it may be something like. ‘You are really getting on my nerves,’ or, ‘Are you going to moan all day?’ Sometimes it may be worth calling the captain over or even involving a team mate to let them know that the player is getting close to the line when disciplinary action will be taken. Use the stepped approach, quiet word, public word, admonishment, caution but don’t forget that you don’t have to religiously work through that approach if the dissent is worth a straight caution. There can be occasions when you didn’t see an obvious incident and if you use your words carefully the player might tell you what he has done. An early card can stop further incidents but it means that you have to be consistent for the rest of the game.
What about loud disputes coming from team managers and others in the dug-out or what passes for it on the local rec? Remember that your jurisdiction extends to officials and substitutes. Again, with managers, use the words that work for you but you might ask them if they consider their conduct appropriate or ask them to reflect on their behaviour. You may get the situation where the manager/coach won’t listen or his behaviour is sufficient that he should be sent away from the touchline as required by the laws but he is insistent on staying, saying that as it is a public recreation ground you have no power to make him leave. Let him know that you will abandon the game if he doesn’t do what you ask and his club will have to bear the consequences.
Spectators can also be a menace particularly in youth games but be careful about approaching them, they are the responsibility of the home club and above all don’t put yourself in danger.
Know the laws, advised Alf, know the competition rules and don’t forget that you must report any misconduct.
Our thanks to Alf, not only for coming down from Amersham to present the roadshow but also for putting together an evening that made us think about the way we react when faced with unpleasant situations.