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Do it Properly

Referees could avoid some criticism by showing more pride and professionalism in their work.

In any game and at any level you will hear referees being criticized.  Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but it is a constant happening.  The reason for this criticism almost always comes from two basic areas.

The first is due to their application of the Laws of The Game.  Many of the referees’ decisions are based on differing judgmental decisions regarding something that happened during the match.  Much of the dissatisfaction is based on the desire of players, coaches and spectators to win the match, sometimes by any means, and for that reason such criticism can often be dismissed as irrelevant to the real performance of the referee.

All referees have the duty to constantly stay up-to-date with changes in the Laws of The Game and their interpretations.  Refereeing is one job that requires on-going education and training.

Referees are also criticized for a lack of professionalism.   Unfortunately, there are referees who, by their own actions and decisions, give all officials a bad name and blur the perception of referees and refereeing.

Professionalism is an individual’s image, presentation and behavior that indicate that the referee has respect for the game and the job he or she is doing.  Too often this impression is undermined by little things that some referees think are not important or they think are unimportant.  Here are some of these little things:

Dressing the part. Players have a dress code and so do referees.  Wearing a clean uniform, clean shoes, removing jewelry and leaving cell phones off the field go a long way to earn respect and show professionalism.  Not being neat and in the proper uniform sends the message that the game and job are not important to you, but the game is important to them.

Showing up on a timely basis. Referees should know the location of their assignments and be there to complete the required inspections and pregame duties so that the game starts on time.  There is nothing worse than seeing teams ready and the referees are not prepared or show up late.

Cards, whistle, watch, coin, pen, etc…. Referees cause much confusion when during a match they are seen to be without some of those basic tools of the trade.

Referees who do not, neatly and accurately, complete a timely game report or take back yellow or red cards. Not only is this unprofessional, it is serious misconduct.  This is an important part of the job that all referees are being paid to do.

Behavior on the field. Referees who get into arguments with players, coaches or spectators.  Referees never wins an argument even they are 100% correct.  Law 5 in the Law Book gives the referees tools to deal with those situations.  Making use of them will show how professional you are.

Fraternizing with players before or after the game. Referees may have friends or acquaintances on teams but they are there to do a job not socialize.  Referees must not only BE impartial, they MUST BE SEEN as being impartial.  Feelings of impartiality toward an official not only last for one game but spread to future games as well.  Like it or not, perception is reality and anything you try to do or say will not change that.

It is unfortunate that these things occur.  If more referees took pride in the work they are doing, the criticism we currently face is bound to diminish.  Referees, who cannot or will not act in a professional manner, maybe should be doing something else.  This may allow those who remain a chance to once again earn the respect they are due and deserve.

Pat Ferre

US YOUTH SOCCER (2021 Volunteer of the Year) USSF Referee Grade 15 Emeritus USSF Referee Instructor USSF Referee Assessor USSF Referee Assignor District-7 Youth Referee Administrator (DYRA)