Skip to content

You Forgotten Your Cards Ref?

So that’s a….

It is a question I remember yelling with teenage angst at a referee before I became an enlightened member of the black brotherhood myself. To be fair, I had just been elbowed by two separate people at the same time. It is also a question that has been echoed by more than just myself at the current World Cup in Brazil. In summertime, most of us have time off to reflect, or simply forget all about refereeing for a while. Perhaps it is the “never off duty” sensation kicking in, but I cannot help but feel a brotherly curiosity at exactly what is going on in Brazil right now with the officials. Nobody likes to see players suspended from important games, like Roy Keane in the Champions League of 1999, or Xabi Alonso in the same tournament this year. However, what we do like to see is a good game of football. Fewer games this tournament were as mouthwatering a prospect as Brazil vs, Colombia, with James Rodriguez and co. gathering a large following of neutral support with their free flowing football and attacking philosophy, taking on a host nation renowned for flair and showmanship. What we got was, as a result of the officials, more similar to Muay Thai boxing than football, and one of the players of the tournament, Neymar Jr. injured with a broken vertebrae. Last season a player asked if I really had to caution him for a challenge he made. The explanation I gave him was that if I didn’t show him a yellow, he could look forward to a heavy challenge himself from players seeking their own justice. I said, and I quote, “If I don’t caution you for that, I’m declaring war on the game.” And this is exactly what officials have done to this entire World Cup. Twenty minutes or so into the Brazil Colombia tie, Fernandinho went flying in and cleaned out James Rodriguez in what was very much a “Welcome to playing against me” challenge. Where's the ball? Fernandinho clatters into James Rodriguez in the first half of the match in FortalezaIt was so easily a yellow card, Fernandinho himself would have expected it before he even made such heavy contact. Instead, the referee set the bar incredibly high for what was considered a yellow, and the game immediately suffered. Every time Colombia showed promise, Brazil time and time again cynically fouled them so that no momentum could be gained. Marcelo notably pulled Cuadrado’s shirt after being beaten on the edge of his own box, in what was yet another obvious yellow card. Fernandinho again went on to foul James Rodriguez a further two times in the first half. Nothing doing. Colombia got away with a couple themselves, before the referee then decided to caution James Rodriguez for his first foul of the game, which the replays showed to have made minimal contact at most. He was rightly livid, and it was clear for all to see his argument; as he gestured that he had been fouled more times than he could count by the same players and then suddenly he found himself cautioned. It was as if the officials were instructed not to hand out yellows in the first half only, and this is a pattern I have seen repeated time and time again throughout the tournament. What made it more laughable was that for all the lack of cautions, presumably to spare people from being suspended, is that Thiago Silva ended up being cautioned and missed the semi-final…and we all know how crucial he turned out to be for Brazil’s defence. To add injury to insult, Neymar Jr. received a knee to the back from Zuniga, leaving the Brazilian striker with a broken vertebrae and no chance of taking any further part in what many dubbed as “his” World Cup. The incident was not even deemed a foul. Any inference made that if it was a foul, a yellow card would have had to have been issued, meaning the referee ignored it to avoid further cautions is purely your own. What angers me most isn’t that players are getting away with things, nor that the officials are having a bad tournament; it’s that it affects the football. If someone is on a yellow, it makes them all the less likely to foul, and disrupt a good attacking move. Yellow cards are a necessary part of the professional game, especially at a tournament as short as the World Cup. We can just thank our lucky stars that Stoke City are a club not a nation, as they’d have been absolutely milking the opportunity to break games up with fouls.


Send me off, shame on me, stab me with a knife, shame on you!

Football violence is not uncommon in South America. Although renowned for a natural ‘flair’ and ‘passion’ for football, the darker side of the game tends to be overlooked.


Now, am I going to condone the actions of Otavio da Silva, for stabbing someone? Not likely. However, the news article on the BBC website,, clearly describes there being a fist fight between the referee and the player before the stabbing occurred. Surely two main questions arise, that go unasked and unanswered in many of the articles covering the story. Why was he carrying a knife in the first place, and what would drive someone to take someone else’s life over something so trivial?

Factors must be considered in a matter as delicate as this. I have, over the years, seen so much footage of referees in South America being assaulted over something as nonsensical as sending a player off. Not just that, but the violence in most cases tends to erupt into a stadium-wide riot, with a lot of the anger provoked by the initial sending off going towards the referee. So, perhaps the knife was carried as a token of self defence? Perhaps the referee never intended to use it, but could brandish the weapon if faced with the sort of ugly violence that has time and again sparked up during these amateur football games?

Certainly at a professional level, you would hope there are police presences which would protect a referee or players from such dangers. However, at amateur level, even in this country, protection for referees often comes in the form of two assistant referees. And a lot of times, referees don’t get appointed assistants. So you are very much on your own. That can be a very daunting prospect even in England, where attacks on referees are minimal in comparison. Put yourself in the situation that Mr. da Silva was putting himself in, and it is not a stretch to imagine why he carried the weapon in the first place.

The second question as to what drove him to use it, again is unasked, as reports are very sketchy and leave out a lot of details. Details which we will assume have come from reports which are unlikely to defend someone who has just stabbed a football player – football fans, football players, football management.

There was a fist fight, that much is clear. What isn’t clear is who started it, or how it was going. The very fact that the Josenir dos Santos refused to leave the pitch however, could be seen as evidence to show he was the instigator of the trouble. I would imagine if a player had accepted a red card and walked off the pitch, a referee would be unlikely to stab him. Now, I have seen rare instances where a referee has made the first move, call it a pre-emptive strike or a nervous reaction, the fault would still lie with the referee, so I am not suggesting that 100% this is the player’s fault. However, if he had accepted a red card, he would not be dead, and that is a fact, cold as it is. Given that the initial fault of not leaving the pitch lies with the player, who is surrounded by fans and colleagues, versus the referee, who is unlikely to initiate violence with that in mind, I would be inclined to say that the player was probably the one who started the fight.

Now, what I say next is based on that assumption, so bear that in mind. We do not know what has been said between the two, any previous history, and gang connections, anything. But we have to accept that all of these are possibilities when talking about Latin American football. Putting myself in the situation where I am fighting with someone who is surrounded by friends, with potential gang connections, beknownst to me or otherwise, and a fist fight is slowly going against me, let’s say I’m now on the ground. What do I do? Do I accept my fate, and lay down, and hope that the violence stops, or do I make a desperate bid for survival, by stabbing (and bear in mind there was only one stabbing, and it took a while for death to occur) my opponent in order to give me a potential escape route?

So often people will make snap judgements on these incidents because that’s all we have time for in the modern world, full of news stories. Especially ones full of news stories with no real substance to them. My purpose from this article is not to attribute blame however. As I’ve pointed out, either party could be responsible, even though once more, I feel responsibility lies with the players/club for not accepting a referee’s jurisdiction, and avoiding all the proceeding violence completely.

No, my point is, in a country that is clearly so steeped in serious football violence, we can all be glad that there won’t be any major footballing events held there, as oppose to, let’s say England, where crimes of this nature are comparatively non-existant. Events such as the Confederation Cup, or World Cup 2014, or the Olympics in 2016. Let’s just be glad they aren’t all held in Brazil.


They are?


First Encounters of the Controversial Kind

OK, that title was a bit of a push. However, I had it in my head and then couldn’t think of anything else. So there it is. Live with it. In this post, I’ll tell you how controversy reared its ugly head, and how I punched it repeatedly in the face until it died.

The scene is set. Refereeing my second girl’s game, somewhat hungover, with about 4 hours sleep in the bank, I was almost certainly asking for trouble. I expected trouble, though it actually went quite well. I was very routine with everything, as you can imagine, being hungover I wasn’t fleshing things out, just getting on with it. This actually may have improved my routine somewhat, which is strange to think, but I think every experience is an opportunity for you to better yourself in some way. My personal ethos is when experience offers me sweets, I get in its van.

Although it seemed a fairly even game, one side had so much more up front than the other…no, you pervert, not like that. It was 2-0 after about 20 minutes. Then, a normally even tempered girl had some complaint about what she felt was a push, and yelled, “Are you ******* blind ref?” Thankfully, I was not blind and saw the culprit. I blew my whistle and called her over. Now, my hungover mistake was saying, “That’s a sending off offence,” anywhere near where the opposition could hear. The girl responsible immediately started pleaing for me not to send her off. Something along the lines of, “I’m really sorry, I’ll get substituted off and you can give me a yellow” she said. Given that all I wanted from the situation was to be in an environment where I wasn’t being questioned quite so aggressively, I accepted this, and showed her a yellow card, after which she trotted off the pitch to be replaced by another player.

Now, this to me, was quite a well handled situation that would keep everybody happy. Ohhhhh no. Firstly, I had about 5 girls from the opposition surrounding me, furiously telling me how wrong I was that she hadn’t been shown a red. I explained to them that the offence was committed against me, not one of their players, so the punishment was one that I deemed appropriate to the offence. One of them responded with, “She’s just blackmailed you.” Which was only worthy of note because it made absolutely no sense. I do enjoy a good nonsensical comment from a footballer. When I had finally dispersed the gaggle of girls that were understandably frustrated but less understandably incensed, the manager of the girl I had shown the yellow to was shouting at me. I assumed he wanted to make a substitution, and so I jogged across. Only to find out that he was angry too. Now this I did not understand…if anyone was to be upset, it should not be the manager of the team who I have essentially just done a favour for. He obviously was not privy to the conversation that I had with his player…for the sole reason that it would have wasted everyone’s time to have a gigantic discussion about the punishment for her offence. So rather than consulting his player, he decided to yell at me and tell me that I wasn’t allowed to make up rules, and that a yellow didn’t equal a sending off yada yada yada. As if I didn’t know that. Emotion truly blinds people sometimes. Later on this manager did apologise after I explained everything to him, and thanked me for explaining it.

This would be the key point to take from this for any new or aspiring referees, communication is paramount to almost everything you do. If you explain why you do something, you will have a much easier time of it, even when you make mistakes. Owning up to mistakes is often a good trait to have as well. Don’t pretend to be perfect, because unless you are, like me, it will simply make life difficult for you when you do make mistakes.

Overall, the game was a good competitive fixture, and one that, thankfully, although no one was thankful for it, was not ruined by a needless sending off.


A Goal only a Ref would score.

My long overdue return to playing was today. Showing up for a pub team whom my best friends play for, It has to be said, after at least 2 years away from 11 a side, my overall aim did not include getting on the scoresheet.

Funnily enough as the only substitute, I was handed a flag, and there I was, helping to officiate a game, except this time I was paying £2.50 for the privilege. I got every decision bang on, but that is not the point of this post, but the best instrument I play is my own trumpet. Take that however you want.

When I eventually came on in the second half, with around half an hour to go, (I think we were 2-1 up at the time), I dropped into midfield, into my self styled playmaking role. My first touch was a first time pass. I think it went off at what is technically an obtuse angle from where I intended it. Great start, I thought to myself.

As the game progressed, I got more and more involved, pulling a few strings which led to a few goals, which meant we were comfortably around 5-1 up. The referee at this stage was beginning to let a few things go, as you may expect, in favour of the team that was down. Understandably, I felt, he just wanted the game to be fairly free flowing to the end which was around 10 minutes away. Any controversy that could be avoided, was.

But he did not count on me being there.

As I ran through for a pass, the opposition manager (who had been very flag friendly) was busy flagging me offside. I accepted that I might have been, despite my doubts about his credibility, and in any case the ball rolled through to the keeper and I didn’t touch it. (So technically I had not committed an offence.) The referee then dismissed the offside, and shouted “Play on.” The keeper, who had the ball, was clearly not paying attention. He dropped the ball down on the floor ready to take the free kick. That had not been given. So I, somewhat apprehensively, walked up to the ball, which everyone else was retreating from getting ready for the free kick, and took it to one side of the keeper, and passed it in to the goal from about 4 yards.

I half expected the referee to rule it out, even though I knew he’d shouted play on. Once you have dismissed a decision like an offside, you cannot suddenly go back and give it. I knew I had done nothing wrong, but the reaction of everyone on the pitch (even most of my own teammates) was incredulous. Thankfully for me, the referee stuck by his decision and signalled a goal, which as far as I’m aware, was the correct thing to do. As you might imagine, the opposition did not think as well of him as I did. As I saw him being surrounded by about five players shouting at him, I even felt like it wasn’t worth me scoring for the fuss it had caused him. A certain professional sympathy washed over me, which I knew would happen. Now that I’ve been on the other side of it, I will never give a referee grief for anything. One of the lads ended up getting cautioned for their arguments. I could understand their frustration, but I could hear their arguments, and they were flawed.
“How was the goalkeeper supposed to hear you say play on?!”
Well, I was stood right next to him, and I heard it.
Listening is an important skill; even in football.

Added Time:

At least I waited to play before I got on the scoresheet, not like this guy. From what it says, it sounds like the ref was coming out with some unbelieveable tekkers.

And this…well this is shocking…I don’t know why the referee is even stood there, and it looks like a mistake…but he’s bloody quick to give the goal, and doesn’t seem bothered at all!


Referee requirements : Dark Hair or Bald Please

I noticed at a referee’s meeting a few weeks back that it seems to be the case that if you’re a referee, you go bald. Some people, such as Howard Webb, and Lee Mills, seem to shave their head as a choice. And fair enough, I’m not sure that either Collina or Webb would look quite as authoritative with curtains or a mullet. It seems to be the go to hair do for the pro referee.

Unless that is, you are a referee from Europe. Now, there are two of this specimen. You’ve got your greasers, and your oddballs. The greasers are instantly recognisable, and tend to originate from the Mediterranean countries. They must use up at least 50% of the world’s supply of hair grease.  (They’re limited to 50% because Cristiano Ronaldo buys out the rest) There seems to be no apparent reason for this, other than you look more like Dracula. I suppose no one wants to f%£* with Dracula.


The others are a much more entertaining breed. They come from countries like Lithuania, have names like Hansel Wolff, and a hairstyle that would not look out of place on the Crystal Maze. I’m not sure if it is the fashion in those countries, that hasn’t yet passed 1973, or if…just a theory here, it’s the best tactical choice for a referee’s hairdo that we’ve covered. If there was a choice between arguing with a bald guy, Dracula, or someone who looks like they could have escaped from an insane asylum, they’re the ones I’d pick last. They’ll never win our hearts, but if you watch, they referee a lot of our European and international football games.

Which leads me to my final point. Remember that guy who refereed one of the more significant England football games? Anders Frisk?anders frisk

He was the one who received death threats and was forced out of refereeing due to overwhelming pressure from the English fans and media. Well, thanks a lot everyone. He was the only blonde referee I have ever known. I could not name another, nor have I seen one since. The blondes only take up 2% of the world’s population, and you destroyed their ambassador for refereeing. We are surely doomed to a life of brown and black, and that’s if we’re lucky. At last count, over half of the ref’s in my refereeing society were bald.

As for the gingers? Well, I know one lad. That’s it. Not seen any pro ref’s that are ginger. Let’s face it, at the top level, refs get enough stick. You don’t need to give the uneducated mob ammo to use against you. At a Bury vs Wycombe game I attended, the crowd singled a player out because he had a beard. It’s madness. Perhaps the gingers are quietly represented by the shaven headed referees. I guess we’ll never know.I recently asked some referees why they thought there were no blonde referees, and a disproportionate amount of brown/black haired referees. The FA seem to have recognised the lack of female officials is a problem. Why has no one noticed the lack of blondies? Why isn’t something being done? I urge UEFA to pull a Romania-type stunt at the next major international tournament, and have all of the officials dye their hair blonde, in a bid to encourage those who must surely feel unrepresented and disparate at the lack of their fair haired brethren in charge of football games.

Otherwise, I fear the future of refereeing is dark…haired.


Kickin’ it Old School

Deutsch: Fußballer U 10

Deutsch: Fußballer U 10 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have just finished refereeing my first age restricted game. I have also just finished the most stress free game you could ever wish to referee. (Yes it was the same one.)

Now, why is it that petulant moaning takes place in a game with adults, when its non-existant at an Under 13’s fixture? Granted, these kids are with their teacher…but you could understand a child getting frustrated if they weren’t performing well and speaking out of turn. In football, maturity seems to have swapped shirts.

Who does the onus fall on then? The players? The fans? The manager? Assuming that the children were better behaved because they knew they would be angering their manager, (teacher in this instance but I’m aware it is managed in other children’s football as well) we can assume that they control themselves because they have been instructed to. I doubt left to their own devices that they would naturally accept the decisions without dissent.

So do adults not receive the same instructions? Of course they do. Perhaps not to the same extent, but a manager, in my experience of playing, will generally make a note of saying don’t mouth off to the ref, as he knows that players get cautioned for it, which is detrimental to the team’s performance.

Why then, does it continue to plague the adult game? Individuals, especially adults, tend to make their own decisions, rather than listening to the manager, and have been brought up in a society that abuses referees. This is going to result in abusive behaviour towards refs. The RESPECT campaign has made steps towards amending this, but is still one giant leap away from resolving the issue.

Many comparisons with rugby have been made, and in my opinion, rightly so. Why should one sport put up with a problem, when another has got a clear working model that solves that problem. Sin binning players seems like a bigger change than it would be. Rugby seems to do fine, and arguably an extra man makes a bigger difference in a game that involves a lot more physicality. I bet that if you searched online for “fans outrage at continued sin binning”, your top result would be an unrelated article on a catholic rock band who took a stole a wheely bin. Because sin binning works, and everyone accepts it. If we’re taking ideas like goal line technology from sports such as rugby and tennis, then surely sin binning could be implemented as another aid to officials? A practical one to make cautions for diving, deliberate handball, reckless challenges, actually mean something to deter the offending player from committing the offence. So many times a promising counter attack will be prevented by a defending player making a cynical foul to stop the play.  If a player had to spend 5 minutes off the field of play for diving, or for breaking up a promising attack cynically, they might just think twice. As they might if they knew that abusing the referee provided the same rebuke.

I don’t want to see fouls, I want to see football like I saw today in the under 13’s game, which was a great game at times. It was so nice to see young footballers playing with expression and skill. Even better to note is that grassroots children’s teams are being encouraged to play football well, not just to win.

If you’re a player reading this, please ask yourself if you would yell at someone who gave you the wrong change, or brought you a full caffeine coffee instead of decaf. Referee’s occasionally make mistakes. They need telling, they do not need you ruining their enjoyment of the game, and the game certainly doesn’t need you ruining its image.

P.S. If you would yell at people who bring you the wrong order, stop reading my blog. I don’t like you.Wrong Order

Be The Ref: Putting you On The Spot

I recently was asked to give my view on a hypothetical refereeing conundrum.

Here is a refereeing scenario for you, who will act as the referee…What would you give?

The scenario is…a striker runs through on goal with the ball at his feet.
The defending player and the keeper collide outside the box, and the keeper player grabs the foot of the attacking player who goes down just before entering the penalty area.
The ball meanwhile, continues to roll towards the goal, where it is obviously going to cross the line.
The defender removes his boot and throws it at the ball, which is in the goal area (more commonly known as the 6 yard box).
The ball deflects wide after being struck by the defender’s boot.

Post your decisions in the comments section of either the blog or facebook, and state why you gave that decision. I will read each decision and assess your reasoning. People always think they could referee a game, let’s put your knowledge to the test!

There will be a follow up scenario, which will change this scenario slightly, but poses a bit more of a problem with trying to justify the decision.