We welcomed back an ‘old boy’, Ed Stone, to our meeting in October. Ed qualified in Reading and refereed on our local leagues before moving to the Midlands where he progressed to the Combination League line. He attended the national course for referee instructors in 1999 and 2000 in which year he became the Training Officer of Birmingham County FA. In 2001 he became one of the FA’s first Referee Regional Managers and in the next 8 years led many of the advances we have seen in referee instruction. He is still an active level 5 referee and an assessor at Contributory and Supply levels.
Ed has always something different and this visit was no exception. He entitled his workshop ‘Overcoming Perceptions’. First he asked members to consider how we are viewed as referees. It didn’t take long to draw up a list. Fussy, bossy, unfit, don’t understand the game, officious, inconsistent, don’t get the big decisions right, in it for the power, arrogant, just spoil the game, pedantic.
Interactive as ever, Ed split the meeting up into small groups to look at some of these perceptions and to consider how we could use our refereeing skills to have a positive effect on the game. Ways in which we can overcome these perceptions. As each group reported back he worked through some of their ideas to try and overcome perceptions.
Fussy and/or Bossy.
Do we blow the whistle too much? Are we too insistent that kicks are to be taken from the exact blade of grass? What about our body language, is it dictatorial rather than open? Be proactive from the start was the suggestion. When you arrive at the ground, be friendly, ask for what you need, match ball, someone to run the line, etc, don’t demand it.
Be consistent throughout your match. Explain your decisions. Concentrate throughout the game. Don’t get involved in the performance of others; every referee is different so consistency with others is going to be unlikely. However, attend training events, share ideas, and learn from colleagues.
Consider your body language, using open hand, not a crooked finger. Treat players with courtesy and respect. Treat people how you would like to be treated. Be approachable. Remember its the players’ game not ours.
Don’t understand the game
Explain or sell you decisions. Do homework on teams’ records. Recognise the underlying dynamics of the game you are refereeing. Referee to their expectations, different levels of football, different levels of skill have different expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from experienced referees. Show empathy with the game, the players and coaches.
Are you genuinely unfit? Is your positioning poor and are you not anticipating your next position? Are you fit to referee games at the level you are doing? Are you refereeing to get fit when you should be getting fit to referee?
Don’t get the big decisions right
Be brave – don’t bottle it when it comes to the big decisions. Build trust and confidence. Get the small decisions right. Apply your knowledge of the laws, get your positioning right. Look to your management of the players. Take the correct disciplinary action. Remember communication is key.
Final thoughts from Ed were that as a referee, you have a key role to perform but you are not the main attraction. Good refereeing facilitates good matches.
Our thanks to Ed for helping us to look at refereeing from another perception and for another entertaining and useful evening.