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Isn't it funny how the Referee always loses the match for the losing team!

Julian Carosi (26 Aug 2000 - Referee Wiltshire England) 8/30/2000

Let me set the scene:

The score is Red team 0 Green Team 0; the time is 89 minutes and 55 seconds into the game. The Referee has been excellent throughout the game, making all the correct decisions, using common sense to allow advantage and play to flow - and has not missed a thing! There have been no Cautions or Sending-offs to administer, and the players (particularly the Red team) are generally 'chatty' and friendly with the Referee. The ball is in the centre circle and still in play, and a Red defender who is standing in his own penalty area takes a sudden dislike to an opponent who is standing alongside, and decides that an imprint of his forehead, would look nice on the opponents nose. As I said before, the Referee who 'has not missed a thing' sees the incident and blows his whistle to stop play. The Referee looks at his watch to double-check that the game has not yet ended and correctly awards a penalty kick to the Green team. The Red defender is sent-off, and (obviously) the Green team scores and wins the game.

"You lost us the game Ref."

As soon as the Referee blows for full time, the Red team players, managers and just about anyone else (who see the Red mist descending before their eyes) make a 'beeline' for the Referee, with the sole purpose of venting their frustrations at losing the game. The usual expletives normally fired towards the Referee are as follows (of course I have omitted the obligatory foul language that accompanies such outbursts:

1. "You were rubbish Ref., you had no control of the game".

2. "You're a cheat and I'm going to report you to the authorities".

3. "You haven't got a clue have you?"

4. "We don't want you refereeing us again".

5. "You must be joking". (That's my favourite, and one that I am beginning to tire off - at least let there be some originality).


6. "You lost us the game Ref., you're ******* useless".

Does this 'ring a bell' with you. The type of match incident doesn't really matter, neither does the time or the score. The fact that the Referee made a decision (whether it was deemed the correct decision or not) is the catalyst for common sense and reasoning to instantly disappear from the offending team players, managers, coaches and spectators. Conversely, the Green team contingent thinks the Referee is the 'best thing since sliced bread'.

"You lost us the game". What does that actually mean?

What it really means is that:

1. The Referee actually took the penalty kick and scored the winning goal for the Green team.

2. The Referee was the Red defender, and purposefully rearranged the face of the Green defender.

3. Or conversely, the Referee was the Green attacker, who purposefully antagonised the Red defender, knowing full well that a penalty would be awarded to the Green team if the Red attacker hit him.

4. The Referee really did not have a clue, and the WHOLE game was officiated badly from the start to the finish.

5. The Referee is the brother of the Green team manager.

6. The Referee is an ex-player of the Green Team.

7. The Referee is prejudiced against the colour of 'Red'.

8. The Referee is a 'Greenpeace' supporter!

9. The Referee was the Red team goalkeeper, and purposefully let in the penalty, which he could have easily saved.

10. The Referee had placed a huge bet with the local 'bookmaker' that the Green team would win 1-0 at odds of 100 to 1.

Of course, the Referee was none of these things. But you can bet your 'bottom dollar' that all of the 'Red' contingent would certainly vote for number 4, even though for 89 minutes and 55 seconds of the game, they though that the Referee was ?great?.

Contrary to popular belief, Referees are a hard working (mostly on a volunteer basis), genuine, caring, sensitive, fair, committed and a very human bunch of people. They are constantly berated from just about every quarter for being 'cheats', of not knowing the Laws, and for lacking consistency. The core Referees are intelligent enough to understand their role in the game, and caring enough to put such attacks into perspective. It is no wonder that Referees have to retreat into their shells after controversial games. One facet of Refereeing that I learned very quickly as a novice some years ago, is not to discuss game or decision points with anyone immediately after (or during) the game. Emotions invariably override decent human behaviour. Players are not really interested in listening to your explanations, because they have already made their own minds that you (the Referee) are a 'plonker'. Immediate post-match confrontations are always (and let me repeat ALWAYS) a one-way frustration vent. I have tried on several occasions to explain my decisions to irate players and managers, but it ALWAYS ends up as a one-way passage of information, with your comments being completely ignored and tossed away in an irrational manner - the Referee would be better off talking to the goal posts. Immediate post match confrontations only lead to further trouble. That is why Referees retreat to the sanctuary of their changing rooms as soon as possible. This allows frustrations to calm down and prevents further reports having to be written - and we have enough of those to contend with already. Nevertheless, Referees are quite happy to talk over match points with reasonably behaved persons ? if there be such things!

"The Referee would be better off talking to the goal post".

Accusations that Referees cannot face up to their mistakes, or are too frightened to confront angry remonstrators are TOSH!. Experience has taught us that we are almost on our own, no party ever 'sticks up for the Referee'.

Try Refereeing a local derby on a Sunday morning when all 22 players are trying to maim each other, and the managers are throwing verbal expletives of a dubious nature at you throughout the game, and the players are constantly moaning at your decisions, and the rain is pouring down, and where you are invariably the only match official on a ground in the middle of the countryside, and where you have no physical protection at all, and everyone is after your blood - then tell me that Referees are not Brave enough or 'man' enough to confront and control society's degenerate spawn.

Football is about mistakes. The speed of the modern game makes instant decision making even more difficult. Referees do acknowledge mistakes on the field of play, but the Laws only allows us to change a decision if play has not been restarted. I know that I am wasting my breath - but Referees do not purposefully make wrong decisions. The game action is very fast; the spectators do not know what players say to Referees as they are running past. They do no hear the frustrations of the players as they confront the Referee. It takes some courage to control and face up to 22 fit athletes (some not quite so fit!) full of emotion and anger - and still retain 100 percent concentration and control of the game action. Try it yourself before you pass judgement.

Football is a very emotive game - without such passion, it would not be the game that it is. I do not advocate ironing out all of the emotional 'peaks and troughs' experience by all of us during a game. But respect, understanding, acceptance of decisions, good behaviour - must be targets that all of us aim to achieve in life as well as in football. The fact that players and Referees do make mistakes (yes Referees are honest enough to admit that) actually forms part of the game itself. Take away the mistakes, and you might as well stay at home and weed the garden.

A Referees decision - whether it is deemed right or wrong - is actually the RIGHT decision.

Law 5 - The Referee, states that:

"The decisions of the Referee regarding facts connected with play are final."

That statement cannot be clearer. If players, team officials and spectators accept and respect that, then things can only improve.

Very often during games, players will run alongside me and say (mostly in a friendly way) "That was the wrong decision Ref.".

My usual reply to players is, "Rather than worry about my mistakes, you would be better off trying to pass to your colleagues rather than keep giving the ball away to the opposition".

In other words - we all make mistakes - accept this, stop moaning and just get on with it! Wouldn't it be novel if Referees were allowed to castigate players when they make a 'hash' of scoring, or when fail to control an easy pass.

From the Referee: "That was a rubbish pass, I could have done better with my eyes closed! are you blind?"

It would be great to have a qualified Referee sitting on every TV panel - the Referee could then lambaste the team managers for tactics that did not work, or to castigate players for missing open goals, or taking bad corner kicks or for making foul tackles. We would be very busy! Of course this will never happen. Referees are easy targets for vigilantes, and Referees can't fight back - because whatever they do they are wrong.

But in reality, a Referees decision - whether it is deemed right or wrong - is actually the RIGHT decision.

The Laws of football are authorised by FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association). The Referees did not make up the Laws. If a player has to be sent-off during a game, it is usually blatantly obvious to all concerned that player has committed one of the seven sending-off offences. Yet why do players and managers always (ALWAYS) dispute every sending-off?

It is because:

(a) They invariably do not know the Laws of the game - how many players and managers do you know, who purchase a new copy of the Laws at the start of every season - not many if any! Whereas, nearly every Referee will receive a new copy every year, along with any Law amendments.

(b) Emotions override normal behaviour. Referees know this, and do actually allow a great deal of leeway when confronting passion in a game. For example: (and you will probably have already heard this many times before) 'if a Referee sends-off every player who swears during a game, then you would not have a game to watch'. The Referees task is to balance the Laws, common sense and the emotions of all concerned. It is a difficult task in which we sadly stand alone.

Comments such as

"I thought the officiating was absolutely miserable on Saturday, and I don't think that many players would disagree".

Is in effect a useful vent for releasing emotions, and are usually voiced by players who have been disciplined during the game. What else can such words positively serve. I do not advocate that such comments should not be made, on the contrary, peoples' perspective of life (and football) is always interesting. I suppose such comments can only be seen in a negative light - and will serve to add fuel to the next confrontation - where I suppose the Referee will again get the blame for any retaliatory action between players (further fuelled by the above player's comment of course). If a player gets a broken leg in the next confrontation - I suppose the comments will have played no part? And it was the Referee?s entire fault!

To attain credibility, an argument should always be balanced. For example, how did the players behave in the game? are they big enough to shoulder some of the responsibility? or was it just the Referee who was playing football by himself? How did the managers or team captains help the Referee control the unruly players? (no help at all I warrant); on the contrary, managers usually encourage confrontation and uncontrolled passion. By all means have a moan - but be big enough to carry some of the blame yourself. How does your behaviour affect your own children? Is this how you want them to behave and react? I hope not - else we might as well all give in now!

It doesn't matter whether you think the Referee for your game is useless or not, or if your interpretation of an incident is different to his, or if the decision is right or wrong. If you think you can do better - then try it out, you probably would not last five minutes. How would you cope with the constant lambasting and griping? how would you like it if the Referee made fun of you (the player) throughout the game? As a Referee, would you just ignore such action and Referee the game as though you were in some sort of protective soundproof bubble? Think back to your game as a player, did you constantly moan at the Referee? - if the answer is yes, then it is you and not the Referee who was "absolutely miserable" or is this how you think football should be played? If it is, then the Referee is not really needed, and the players are very welcome to fight it out amongst themselves!

"The Referees did not make up the Laws".

This season (2000/20001) in England, the Football Association has set up a new weekly 'video panel' comprising of former experienced Referees, managers and players. The panel has been formulated to represent the professional game, and will look at video evidence such as 'mass confrontations' between players, and also to look at individual discipline offences with the view of disciplining players whose indiscretions have been missed by the match officials. I'm all for punishing guilty players, but the video panel should not be used to undermine the authority of Refereeing decisions. As yet, it is the disciplinary commission (not the video panel) who is responsible for 'dishing out' the punishment. Nevertheless, Referees can use the video evidence to review their disciplinary decisions -and are 'man enough' to have done so on several occasions. I do not necessarily agree with the use of video evidence - the one saving grace is that it will never be used for the 99% of Referees who officiate at local level. I suppose that one day, we might even have video evidence that will be used to change the result of a game, because the player who scored the goal was 10 centimetres offside. I think we are heading down a very slippery slope with the utilisation of technology - I for one will certainly 'pack it in' (and so will many other Referees) if our decisions are constantly overruled by the opinion of some glorified panel.

Perhaps one day we will even get to the situation where a game is not marred by any controversial Refereeing decisions at all, and where every decision made by the Referee is agreed on by everyone. Let?s face it, that really would be worth a comment or two - but I do not think there is much chance of that happening.

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What do you think? Comments and suggestions regarding this article are appreciated please email

Julian Carosi, Melksham R.A. Wiltshire England Class 1 Referee.

Mr. Carosi also has a training website for referees in Corsham UK.

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