Monday, 27 November 2017

Spectators racially abusing a player - how should a ref react?

Game 28, 2017-18

When a player swears at someone in the crowd, it's supposed to be an automatic sending-off. Just before half-time in yesterday's game, the away team's left-winger is standing in front of a bunch of kids, aged around 5-12 years old, telling them furiously to "piss off" just before he takes a throw-in. I leniently show him the yellow card, but he barely seems to notice, he's still so steamed. Coming off the field at the break, I ask him what the problem was.

Lenient yellow proved to be a lucky call...
"One kid was spouting off anti-semitic insults," he says. "A ten-year-old kid!" That's problematic, as the home side is ethnically north African, while the visiting side is the city's principle Jewish club. I rescind the yellow card, and am very happy that I hadn't shown him the red. I also ask him to avoid slanging matches and come straight to me if there are any further incidents in the second half. Then together with a reluctant steward, I oversee the expulsion of the kids from the ground.

The game itself is fine, for once - the few moments of tension quickly de-escalate either through my intervention or the conciliatory behaviour of the players. Are they perhaps overtly aware of the potential uproar should there be any nasty incidents

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The curse of neutrality - referees as fans

Lincoln City v Coventry City, Nov 18, 2017

Almost 36 years to the day before this game I was watching the same home team, Lincoln City, in the same stadium, Sincil Bank. I was on my own, and standing on a long since demolished section of terrace close to the player’s tunnel. I’d never stood there before and I never stood there again, but when the final whistle went I moved close to the tunnel to take a closer look at my heroes as they left the field following a 2-1 victory.

A game I was at just
36 years ago.
You’d think the fans would have been happy at the result, and I believe that most of them were. One man was genuinely furious, though. As the three referees approached the tunnel, I could see him jumping up and down in anticipation. As they walked down the tunnel he yelled, “Bloody disgraceful, referee, you’re an absolute bloody disgrace.”

The referee’s performance had been entirely unremarkable.

Fast forward three dozen years and I’m standing at almost exactly the same spot, except on the other side of the tunnel - it’s the first time I’ve been this close since that game in 1981. This time Lincoln have deservedly lost 2-1, but myself and several fans are applauding them off the field for their effort, and because they played their part in a fast and entertaining game of football.

Then the three referees approach the exit. In my view they have done well to keep a furious party under control, even as they followed the modern trend for ignoring several clear cases of pushing, shoving and holding. One man among us, however, is livid. As soon as the officials are within earshot,

Monday, 13 November 2017

When your family comes to watch you ref

Game 27, 2017-18

There’s a short history of family members coming to watch me referee over the past decade. The pioneer was my father-in-law, who watched me in action all day at a youth tournament in the US a few years ago. On the ride home, he was resolutely silent. He remained so until two days later when we were watching a game on television. Then he remarked: “This referee’s a lot like you. Very frugal with the whistle.”

Bright shirt on a grey day (pic: N Lotze)
Last year, Mrs RT came along to a men’s game, bringing a book in the expectation that she would be bored. She never even opened the book, being in equal parts horrified, fascinated and entertained by all that unfolded before her, with her husband the centre of attention for 90 minutes. For the following two weeks she followed me around the flat shouting, “Hey ref, what the fuck is that dirty fork doing on the draining board? And where the fuck’s my dinner? Come on, referee!”

This weekend it was my youngest daughter’s turn. She was telling us about an exercise for her design course where she had to take a photograph to illustrate an article for which the students only knew the headline: “Compassion is an unlimited resource.” Oh yes, come along to my game tomorrow, I said, you’re sure to see plenty of examples of

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Stop screaming at kids. And at referees. In fact, just stop screaming

Game 26, 2017-18

I coach a boys U7 team, and on Saturday morning we had a home game in the Fair-Play League. I am very hands-off and let them scurry around after the ball, backed by lots of encouragement and very little guidance. I stick closely to the League's instructions to keep my team's parents well away from the field of play.

Sticking it to The Man
The away team, however, allows a father to stand behind one goal coaching his son. The kid has the ball in his hands and kicks it straight to one of my players. The father screams at his son for the mistake. My player shoots, the goalie saves (very well), then another one of my players nets the rebound. Making the score... it doesn't matter. We're not supposed to count the score. The father is now gesturing emphatically and screaming at a whole bunch of wee lads: "Where was the defence?"

His two coaches are doing nothing, so I walk up and ask him what on earth he's doing yelling at five- and six-year-old kids. He suddenly looks ashamed, apologises, and then moves away from the goal. Afterwards, he comes to shake my hand and makes an excuse about it having been "in the heat of the game". I'm so irritated by this remark that I just ignore him. Though in hindsight I wish I'd said,