Our guest speaker in November had been a Level 3 referee and a Level 4 Referee Tutor, but has decided to take a step back to become a Level 5 referee and Level 2 Tutor. His experience however shone through to provide an excellent evening.
Vince Penfold took as his theme ‘Great Expectations’ and asked who was it that had expectations when we go out to referee? Members’ suggestions were players, spectators, managers/coaches, assessors and ourselves. Vince then split the meeting into smaller groups for each group to look at the expectations of a different set of people. After their deliberations Vince asked each group to list their top three.
What do players expect?
For players it started with ‘protection’, but “what can we do to protect players?” Vince asked. We can’t stop players making bad tackles for instance. What we can do is make sure that bad tackles are dealt with in the correct manner as to give a message that we won’t tolerate it, particularly early in the game when we won’t want to use the advantage clause.
Next for players was consistency. But what does that mean to players? They will often quote ‘last week’s referee’ and what he did or didn’t do, but we can’t strive for consistency with anyone else. We can only try for consistency with our own game, but even then it’s not always accepted as such. We might allow a quick free kick for one team but then not to the other when we want to speak to the offender. Players might not understand the law such as a high foot is only an offence when other players are in close attendance.
The third expectation for players was ‘to be approachable’. No reason we shouldn’t be, but what steps do we take when players want us to be too approachable and keeps querying everything and demanding that you explain every decision?
Expectations of clubs
Clubs also want protection of players this group thought, but they also want Fairness. However, how do we deal with the perceptions they often have that we give everything to the other side? Even if it is right we can hardly count the fouls and make sure they are even.
The third expectation is the correct application of the Laws. It was pointed out that apparently clubs will mark you low if you don’t take any disciplinary action that is needed. Sometimes we fail by not giving cards. What we want from payers and clubs is respect and that is just what players and clubs expect from us.
As well as crying out for consistency, spectators want to see a referee letting the game flow. They don’t want a game that is continually stopped for minor incidents or delays in restarting.
This of course led to a discussion on advantage, when we should or shouldn’t play it and when we should call it back and award the foul. How many of us, asked Vince, abandon the advantage and call for the foul before we have actually signalled or shouted advantage. It all happens so quickly but we should at least give our arm signals.
Spectators also want some understanding of the referee’s decisions. This might mean a few hand signals for example for such fouls as shirt pulling but nothing too flamboyant. Of course if you keep up with play, then your decisions are more likely to be accepted especially if accompanied with good body language. You can’t ‘sell’ a decision from 50 yards away.
If being assessed, what does the assessor expect?
Assessors are looking for the application of the laws, match control and looking the part. So how do we meet all these expectations and perhaps our own? Preparation is part of the answer.
Vince has a ritual that he follows before every game starting when he packs his bag. He also has what he calls his “game plan”, which he likened to a dog lead. At the start of the game he keeps a tight reign and it can gradually be extended, then if circumstances demand, it can be reigned back in.
And what about self-assessment? How many take the time to look at their own performance after each game and then act on it? One of our younger referees made the valid point that improvements should be made in small steps; don’t try and change everything too quickly.
Finally, Vince said that if we try to meet everyone’s expectations we won’t be doing our job properly. What we should be doing at each game is not to allow ourselves to lower standards.
Our thanks to Vince for a great evening, not of preaching but searching for those answers that will make us meet at least, our own expectations.