Monday, 27 March 2017

The benefits of an Early Yellow

Games 42-43, 2016-17

You should never set out with pre-conceived notions of what kind of a game you're going to be refereeing. I've written that several times before. Yet late on Saturday afternoon, as I cycle through the park and past the re-opened outdoor café with its patrons determined to enjoy the bright but still chilly spring weather, I'm thinking, "This game could probably do with an early yellow card."

Hold it high, show it early,
you pompous twat
How do I know that, an hour prior to kick-off and before even arriving at the ground? It's a boys' U19 game between two teams close to the top of the table. I've checked the statistics from when they met earlier in the season - seven yellow cards, two red cards, and two time-penalties (a 5-minute 'sin bin' sit-out for any player getting a second yellow. In the state where I ref there are no yellow-reds in youth football).

The two clubs are geographically very close, and there's a healthy crowd of around 60. I ask the away team to take their bench to the other side of the field, away from the home bench and spectators, and they seem quite happy to do so. I also locate two stewards, and tell them that they're responsible for crowd control. As we prepare to take to the pitch, I summon

Monday, 13 March 2017

Three red cards and some issues of racial awareness

Games 40-41, 2016-17

Some days, this seems like time
better spent than refereeing. 
Sometimes I get assigned to a game out of town, and when I look at the laughably christened Fair Play Table, my heart sinks a little and I think I know why I'm being given the treat of a longer trip. Yesterday I was sent to officiate between teams who, in the disciplinary rankings, were third bottom (the home team) and bottom (away). This is in a league of very few angels, where you have to be almost conscientiously deviant to hit last place.

I presume that the idea is to ship an unknown ref in for a potentially explosive game, then let him flee the scene never to be heard of again in that neck of the woods. It's true there are some players you encounter on a weekend afternoon you'd might not want to meet on the street late on a week day night. I've retained a clear image in my head of the player who threatened to break my neck last autumn. You know, just in case.

I talk with the referee who's just officiated the game before me, between the reserve teams of the same two clubs. How was it, I ask. He shrugs. "Well," he says of the away team. "They're..." And he

Monday, 6 March 2017

Dealing with a "fucked up" groundsman

Game 39, 2016-17

Beach football, anyone?
Grey, gruff and prone to complaining at the slightest provocation - that's your average groundsman. It's advisable, nonetheless, to stay on his good side. He has the key to your changing room and can, say, adjust both the heating and the water temperature. It's best to keep in with him by lending a sympathetic ear to his low grumblings about the mud and mess that teams always leave behind, and about why the government hasn't yet sent in elite armed unites to tackle and annihilate the city's mole population.

Sometimes, though, it's hard to stay calm in the face of their cussedness, idleness and all-round inefficiency. Yesterday's game was scheduled for the grass field, but when I arrive I find that the grass field has been cordoned off in favour of the cinder pitch. The lines are badly marked, and the cinder hasn't been levelled out since the last game. It's just about playable, but it's in a lumpy, shitty state. On the way back to the club house I inspect the closed-off grass pitch. It's in perfect condition.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

A referee's rational response to criticism

Games 36-38, 2016-17

More cards than the
Queen's bloody birthday
City Cup, semi-final - what's at stake? The City Cup winner goes into next season's State Cup, and the winner of the State Cup goes into the first round of this country's FA Cup. Win that, and you're in the Europa League. Win the Europa League and... well, let's say that tonight I'm reffing two potential Champions League participants. Though probably not.

What I'm reffing tonight are two quick but very physical teams. I raise the yellow card so often that my left arm's soon aching like a castaway's knob. At the end of 90 minutes, the central defender of the losing team shakes my hand, then kindly adds, "I haven't seen such a bad referee for a long, long time."