At our January meeting we were pleased to welcome Phil Knight who has a mixed role in football. He is a level 3 referee (probably his last season she said) and assistant referee on the Football League, an assessor, Level 4 referee tutor and to cap it all he is Chief Executive Officer of Suffolk FA. Phil chose as his theme for the evening Managing the temperature of the game. He said he wanted to look at when the temperature arises, in other words, when there is heightened tension in the game and what we as referees are going to bring it down.
He asked members how we recognise the temperature danger zone. The following signs were identified; increased speed of play, dissent levels increase, frustration by players not getting their way, decisions not going their way, managers behaviour to stir up players, increased noise from spectators, increase in aggression and tough challenges, an under current of confrontation.
Sometimes, Phil suggested, we get so focused that we forget to see the bigger picture which can affect our match control. He then asked what were the sort of things that might affect match temperature. Answers given included; history between the two clubs, challenge of the game, e.g. top of the table clash or even top v bottom clubs, time wasting such as kicking the ball away or holding on to it, goals being scored, contentious decisions and then there were certain periods of the game such as the first ten minutes of each half, last ten minutes, or perhaps when a substitute comes on.
What we need in these sort of situations is a strategy for regaining control, what Phil called ‘safe refereeing’. Positioning, he said, was imperative, go where you need to go, getting to where the ball is going to be next, use the dead time at free kicks. Next up your work rate, with increased intervention in the game, a higher foul detection level, Don’t micro manage when you don’t need to but micro manage when you do. Avoid the use of advantage, shut the game down at every opportunity – use the stepped approach. Beware of incidents outside your range of sight. Slow down the pace of the game when you give cards or when substitutions are made. Ensure you have positive body language. Phil said he found it beneficial to manage in five minute segments, reviewing how things are going. Also he said you were going to need good team work with your assistants, make sure your briefing includes what your strategy will be, try to get them to read the game with you.
Our thanks to Phil for making the long journey to provide such an informative evening. He had to travel from his office in Suffolk to be with us and then make his way back to his home in Kent.