Reffing hell it’s hard work!

by admin

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

My Sunday Morning

From a young age I have always been intrigued by the thought of refereeing a football match. How fun it seemed to be involved in a game so close up, watching two teams compete for glory. How many fans would love the opportunity to watch their heroes, not from the grandstand, but from the same patch of turf? There is a catch, of course. That whistle around the neck is no doubt a heavy burden, not to mention that little black notebook and two coloured cards in your pocket.

This morning I had my first taste of what Howard Webb and Co. put themselves through every weekend. I have refereed football games at kids’ parties before and found it a lot of fun. I was now preparing for a very different scenario. Earlier in the week a friend asked me to referee his Sunday team. As I am currently short of cash I agreed to give it a go in exchange for £30.

I walked out on to the pitch, which was gleaming in the spring sunshine. The away team arrived and of course were less than thrilled to find that the referee was a ‘homer’. But such is the decline in the number of amateur officials, they accepted there would be no game without me. Just before the game I received all the expected promises off players from both sides; “we’ll try to give you an easy game” and “we won’t give you any hassle”.

Within a few minutes of the start all that had gone out of the window. Two genuinely honest decisions in favour of the home team led to the predictable shouts of “there’s two teams out here ref!” and “looks like we’re playing against 12”. I managed to ignore them but a big part inside of me wanted to scream in their ear “I am giving everything as I see it!” I was quietly pleased when they opened the scoring early on. Maybe that would help them suppress their anger towards me.

Some chance! Only minutes later a home striker was tripped from behind in the area. I had to make a quick decision – and I did. Penalty. Of course the offender raged that he played the ball. In actual fact he was nowhere near it. The penalty was converted and now I was Public Enemy Number One for the visitors. But I would have made the same decision at the other end.

One of the most difficult things I found was to stay out of the way of the play. I wanted to be as close to the action as possible to give myself the best chance to spot infringements. But I often found myself frantically trying to jump out of the way as the ball or even a player came hurtling towards me.

The visitors went in at halftime 2 – 1 up and, to stay impartial, I sat alone at the break rather than go for a chat with my mates in the home dressing room. I was happy to be 45 minutes away from the final whistle.

As I got the second period underway, it became apparent that just as the away team were trying to influence me by suggesting I was biased, the home team felt I should be doing them a favour and giving more decisions their way. It was really a no-win situation for me.

The hosts equalised with half an hour remaining, before my biggest test of the morning arrived. It was a test I passed in some ways, but I also made what could have been a costly error on another day. I took my eye off the game. It all started when a tussle between a defender and attacker suddenly became aggressive and they both had their arms raised at each other’s throats. I had no interest in producing any cards so I sprinted over and immediately calmed the situation down just as other players were beginning to get involved. I was pleased to have dealt with the situation quickly and effectively. But then I realised my huge mistake. While I was among the brawling players the game had continued and I had not blown my whistle. Luckily the ball was in the goalkeeper’s hands and everybody seemed ready to get on with the game. But what if it had not been that simple? If a goal had been scored I would not have seen it and it would have been purely my fault.

As the clock ticked away until there were just five minutes left, I began to pray inside my head that there would be no more controversial incidents. Both teams could go home with a well-earned point in what was an even contest. However, there was one more heart-in-mouth-moment for me in the very last minute. An attacker for the away team went down just outside the box and I blew for a foul. The respective angry and surprised reactions from the home and away teams made it obvious to me that no foul had been committed. But I had given the kick and watched nervously as the ball was delivered into the box. Thankfully the ball was cleared and as the ball sailed up the pitch I brought the game to an end with three loud blasts on the whistle. It was over. What a relief! And I felt I had done a fairly decent job.

Only a handful of players from each team shook my hand which showed just what a thankless task the referee still has. I have now seen football from both a playing side and an officiating side – and I don’t need to tell you which one I prefer. From a player’s point of view there will always be poor referees. And yes it is frustrating. But they are also a dying breed and they still need more protection if more young officials are to be encouraged into the game.

The Football Association can promote its ‘RESPECT’ campaign all it likes, but until they start clamping down on Rooney’s swearing, Ashley Cole’s arrogance and Ronaldo’s childish petulance, discipline problems will continue to filter down to the lower leagues.

The next time I step out onto the pitch as a player the referee will certainly have my respect. And I hope my team-mates can follow my example. I won’t hold my breath though.

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  • Darren

    Was this your game?

    Footballer puts wind up referee

    A referee ordered a penalty to be retaken in a Sunday league football game when an opposition player broke wind as the ball was kicked.

  • Russell Drury

    Ha ha. No definitely not. Don’t know what i would have done in that situation!

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