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ITOOTR - In the opinion of the referee

Richard Dawson 11/21/2000

"In the opinion of the referee", the much chanted mantra of our profession is the essential ingredient in the profile of a competent referee. Referee ingredients are the intangibles of a salty personality and spicy character traits. If we mix in a level of fitness, a helping of positioning, provide a liberal sprinkling of judgement, add a dash of common sense, mix together thoroughly and an opinion is formed.
In the opinion of a player, coach, fan or a spectator whether a referee has the right mixture will represent whether a fork is stuck in to see if he is done. I fully recognize the frustration of coaches, players, parents and fans witnessing the game management techniques of a center referee who, (in their opinion or is it now considered fact?) is having a less than perfect game. Comments that reflect our integrity and abilities are not always unjustified, whether they are appropriate or not is another matter. We must consider the source and type of comments if we are sincere in raising the standards of officiating. The ability to agree to disagree and the true desire to apply fairplay tempered with reason and passion is necessary but not without difficulties. The pursuit of excellence need not take place at the expense of ideals nor should ideals be so valued there is no allowance for improvement.

Game management is the actual working of a game, guided by the conduct of the teams involved and the referee's interpretation of the level of bendability rule 18 allows. It is crucial to focus on our primary objective, which is to apply the rules and guide the game to a safe conclusion. A referee must always keep a firm hand on the controls! Yet, a referee has to be wary of power management and altering the game by the constant blowing of whistles. It is not the limelight we need to be seeking, just guide the game and play, play, play! Handing out cards and ejecting players is a serious matter and can influence the outcome and enjoyment of matches in as much as too little control will allow matches to deteriorate and players to be injured. There is a great deal more than blowing or not blowing your whistle at stake here. The years of experience, the level or grade a referee attains should be an asset. One would expect wisdom and tolerance to feature prominently in their demeanor. Knowledge of rules and interpretation of law are pertinent to a referee's makeup, but attitude and composure at an adult level must be a positive influence into the "know it all" personality of those who view with disdain imperfections in others.

Referees are accorded a certain stature, but respect is an earned quality? not demanded! Game management is an art form in as much as it is the application of the rules. Conduct and adherence to your principles will eventually determine whether you are accorded respect in the opinion of others. Remember people will instinctively disagree with you 50% of the time. There is no right or wrong only opinion.

In reading recent articles on player's perspective of officiating, I was struck by the vagueness of just what a good official would actually do differently. Good players like good officials usually arrive at some level of consistency that their peers come to rely on. Players, coaches and spectators must use seminars and discussion panels with officials to address the game of soccer in a positive framework. But let no one mistake a willingness to discuss issues as a pandering to disgruntled players who simply lack the ability to "agree to disagree" for the good of the game. It will always be difficult for players to view objectively decisions made by a referee when after a tackle where no whistle has gone and their ankle is devoid of flesh where the cleats of their respected opponent have carved burning grooves of pain. That SOB referee was blind and now that target light over the head of that demented opponent is on lock within the fiery brain of the offended player for pay back time.

The delicate balancing act of what a referee can call is ONLY what can be SEEN from WHERE YOU ARE in the INSTANT it happens! Players who criticize referees are not necessarily incorrect in their assessments whether a referee has done a good job only in understanding the application of respect and fairplay extends to all aspects of the game including officials. Decisions and judgements handed out by referees are not really much different in outcome than players decisions or judgements of his or her tactical or positional play as to whether either has a memorable game. We can all stink from time to time as long as it is not all the time we move on. Players can not manage themselves without the referee! Referees need players to play the game of soccer. It takes two, not one. For the good of the game and the evolvement of a better class of human beings, enjoy yourselves, communicate and lets play soccer!

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