Our guest speaker in November was Graham Scott, a National List referee from Abingdon so a Berks & Bucks referee. Graham admitted to being top of the league for the number of yellow cards issued in this season. He had played football in the Hellenic League when he sustained a back injury. He thought all the referees were rubbish so decided to take the referees’ course although he had no aspirations for a refereeing career. However, he joined the North Berks League, somewhat renowned for its tough games and as he took the field he felt exposed, am I going to be found out, he asked himself. He admitted a lack of ambition, but gradually made his way through the leagues, steady progress rather than speedily he said and he was now in his fourth year as a National List referee. He still felt he could do better after each game and for sure the assessor will always find something.
Graham’s theme for the evening was the first five minutes of the game and he made the point that this part of the match control doesn’t change whatever level in which you referee. How we manage these events, will set the tone for the rest of the game.
Kick off. This is an opportunity for you to exert your authority. Make all players start in their own half and not just those in the centre circle. Check the wings, players these days have a tendency to line up like American football with several players together and they have a habit of creeping forward before the kick is taken. Shout at keepers to check that they are ready, it will give you a chance to use your voice so that the players hear it and get used to it.
First goal kick. You want to be where the ball is likely to drop of course but where is that going to be? Look at the positioning of the keeper’s forwards, that will give you some idea of his kicking abilities. Don’t slip off too wide; go where they can see you, that alone will cut out a lot of the pushing into the backs of opponents.
First corner. At the first sign of pushing or holding that is so prevalent today, stop the kick and talk to the players concerned. Take up a position so you can see the maximum of players but close enough so they can hear you. In local football he suggested that it might be best to be close to the goal line but not on it.First free kick. Make sure you know where the ball is, and don’t let them kick it away. If they do, it may warrant a yellow card but even if it doesn’t, manage it by speaking to the player. Ensure the players retire the distance. Graham said that he didn’t allow quick free kicks if he had reached the spot where the kick should be taken. Let all the players know it is only to be taken on the whistle.
The first verbal challenge is probably the most important. Don’t ignore it, was Graham’s advice. You have a whole range of tools in your armoury to deal with it, he said, starting with a quiet response and walking away and give them three goes before you call them out. However, if they go public with their challenge, then so should you. There is always one or two in a team that start in his experience and if they get away with it, the others will join in.
There was a great amount of invaluable advice, particularly for the younger referee but the more experienced could still take a lot from this evening, for which our grateful thanks are due to Graham.