Men In Black
Morning,all. Today’s article offers us an insight to the duties of a referee and his assistants. Written by my big pal SOL KITTS,and based on his own personal experience,it’s a bit of an eye-opener!
Match day for most referees at senior level actually starts several days earlier, when the fixtures for the weekend are posted on the FA website.
After confirming the fixture with the league, checking ground details, kick off time, and names of assistants, the ref will make initial contact with the home club, and his assistants.
Contact with the home club is to establish who will meet you at the ground, and check the teams colours don’t clash; contact with the assistants is to set up travel to the game (best to travel together to allow everyone to get to know each other when it’s assistants you’ve not worked with before, and to renew old friendships with familiar assistants).
On the day of the match, the officials arrive at least 3 hours before kick off, meet the home team contact, time for a cup of tea, then onto the pitch for an inspection (pitch condition, corner flags, nets). This is usually when the assessor appears, to listen to your instructions to your assistants.
Instructions (from me) were usually set out in such a way as to involve my assistants as much as possible. Start with easy stuff. Who is the senior assistant? Explain their roles, who takes what notes during the game.
The teams. Inspections in the tunnel. No jewellery allowed, not even if taped up. If a player can’t or won’t remove it he doesn’t play. Kit set out as regulation, tape on socks the same colour as the socks. Check their studs. Nothing dangerous. Undershorts and undershirts to match the colour of the kit.
Throw ins, pitch cut into 3 thirds. My third, the end furthest from the assistant, my decision, see what I’m giving and flag the same way. Assistant’s third, I will follow his decision unless it’s plain wrong. Middle third, look at each other, watch hands pointing (his and mine) try not to clash, don’t go too quickly.
Goal kicks and corners, be up with play, maintain eye contact with me, make sure we both call it the same.
Offsides, stay on the 2nd last defender, do not flag too soon, make sure the attacker is active, and once you’ve flagged, do not put it back down. I will only over-rule if the assistant gets it wrong in law (eg a pass back).
Fouls and misconduct, I always reminded my assistants that they were qualified refs who knew what a foul was, and what required further punishment (yellow or red). They were told if they saw a foul that I couldn’t see to flag for it, but if I had a clear view to take their lead from me – I was always close enough to play to see everything except blind side pulls, etc.
Penalties, I would generally be close enough to make the call, but my assistants were always told to flag where I had been caught out by a long punt up the pitch, or where a foul happened in their zone of control (the penalty area in a line from the 6 yard box).
Dissent, if a player got out of hand, let me know and I will deal with it. Same with the benches.
Instructions over, time to get changed, back to the changing room (minus the assessor). This is the time to properly discuss the forthcoming game, what to look out for, how the tightness of control will happen as and when the intensity increases. If a game looks like boiling over, expect more free kicks to take the steam out of it.
Next, equipment check. Everyone goes out fully kitted up, all carrying whistles, note books, cards, pencil. Don’t forget your coin (no stone, scissors, paper lol). And especially two watches,don’t want any suggestion of Fergie Time!
Assistants, remember your flag.
Team sheets arrive, both managers together. Check they’re properly completed, query anything that looks wrong. Introduce the assistants, handshakes all round. I always told the managers that I liked a flowing game and if their players just wanted to play football then I would let them. My team would only get involved when we needed to. I asked them to tell the players that dissent would always lead to a card.
Warm up for about 15 minutes. Shuttles, laps, sprints, got to have the muscles warm and ready for a fast start, back to the changing room for a final equipment check.
Around 8 mins before kick off, bell the players to assemble in the tunnel. Assistants carry out the equipment checks as they leave their changing rooms. Both teams lined up together, assistants confirm all ok, we lead the teams onto the pitch. Line them up, get the handshakes done.
Break away, assistants check the nets again then return to the centre circle.
Bring both captains together, introduce myself and the assistants by name, address the captains by name. Briefly remind them how you expect them to control their teams, let the know they can talk to me during the game, but not in a dissenting way.
I won’t change a decision just because they don’t like it, but I will respond to a polite request for clarification. Remind them that dissent will result in a card.
Coin toss. Winner gets to choose ends, loser kicks off. Count players, 11 a side only please,
Assistants take up their positions, and at just over 3 hours after arrival at the ground, we have a game of football.
Half time, talk through the 1st half with the assistants. Did I miss anything? Are they performing at the level I need them to? What can we expect 2nd half? Who’s on the verge of persistent fouling?
2nd half, assistants recheck the nets. All flags still in place? Senior assistant, or 4th official in bigger games, deals with halftime subs.
Count players again.
Here we go again, 2nd half of a game of football.
Full time, joined quickly by assistants, handshakes with them, players and managers. Watch everyone off the pitch, the men in black are last off. If a manager wants to discuss anything about the game, tell them to wait 20 minutes then come to my changing room.
Back to the changing room, quick debrief with the assistants before the assessor comes in. Go through his notes on the game, discuss points he raises and explain why certain decisions were made.
Assessment report will be emailed in a few days, hope it’s a good one, a poor one could mean no promotion this season.
Assessor leaves, we get changed back into civvies (shirt and tie) then off to the boardroom for a bit of hospitality and get expenses claims settled.
Around 6 – 7 hours after arriving at the ground, time to drive home, after dropping off the assistants.
Get home, log onto the website and do the disciplinary paperwork, caution, send offs, other misconduct, email these to the FA.
So that’s Saturday done, now onto my Wednesday fixture being notified, and it all starts again.
And you thought we just turned up, did the game, and went home…