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Book reviews: 'Blowing the Whistle' by Stuart Carrington and 'The Social Ref' by Shawn D Madden

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There's been no action on the field since March, so here's a review that I wrote for @SoccerAmerica at the end of last year of two refereeing books, by @StuCarrington07 and @SocialRefHabits

Football Books of the Year, 2019, Part 2: How to be a Better Referee
Blowing the Whistle: The Psychology of Football Refereeing by Stuart Carrington(Dark River)
The Social Ref: How to Become a Better Referee and Umpire by Shawn D. Madden (independently published)

Within their own social circle, referees are nerds. We love to discuss seven different ways to interpret the more obscure clauses of the Laws of the Game, to enthuse about our favorite jersey designs, and to compare notes on which brand of whistle we blow. We have a story for almost every game we ever officiated, and in most of those stories we come out on top (the stories where we don't remain untold). Wayward players, loudmouthed coaches and gesticulating spectators all have one thing in common - they do not know as much as we do…

Two youth games, 13 yellows - and no one even blinks

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Games 36-37, 2019-20
"Boys, every manifestation of dissent and unsportsmanlike behaviour will be punished with a yellow card, in line with the new German FA guidelines." All four teams nod - two on Saturday (U17) and two on Sunday (U19). Neither game is especially well or especially poorly behaved. The fact I barely notice there were a total of 13 yellow cards across the two matches (two cautions for dissent, two for foul play, nine for unsportsmanlike conduct) perhaps reflects how immune I've become to the lousy sporting culture of this city.
[As an aside, in my youth I played club, schools, county and university football from 1976-1987 and can say with certainty that the number of yellow cards shown during those entire 11 years over several hundred games came nowhere close to the 13 cards I showed in two games over the course of this past weekend. Old fart's statistical rant over.]
I reffed Sunday's home team last month already, and it didn't end well. I gave …

An Amateur Referee's Guide to Communication

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Games 34-35, 2019-20
"Communication is the most important aspect of refereeing." It's an old guy, leaning on the surround barrier of the field where I've just reffed. We're watching the game following mine. I don't know if he's making a general comment, or if the comment's specifically aimed at me. Either way, I spent a lot of Sunday's game talking with players, right from the moment I arrived at the club house. Here are some of the different ways that an amateur referee verbally communicates with the two teams over the course of the three hours spanning our arrival to an occasionally embittered departure.
PRE-GAME 1. Introduce yourself. On arrival seek out both coaches, shake their hands and smile. Greet players just arriving or already warming up, strike up a conversation if the chance arises. No one wants an aloof authoritarian in charge of their game. As a player, I hated refs who thought they were too good for Sunday league. Let the teams know y…

It's almost routine - a red card for violent conduct in a youth game

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Game 32-33, 2019-20
"If the poor, insulted mothers only knew how many fights they were responsible for instigating on the football fields of Germany every weekend..." So began one of my paragraphs in the disciplinary report that followed Sunday's U17 boys game. 
Call someone a 'bastard', and they might get shirty, but they don't scream, "Are you saying my mum and dad weren't married when I was born?" Call someone a wanker and they might be pissed off, but they don't get right in your face and yell, "Are you implying that I indulge in acts of self-gratification? ARE YOU?" Yet call someone a son of a whore, and they immediately think that you are insulting their mother and freak out in her defence. This insult is apparently personal in a way that being a bastard or a wanker is not. I'm not saying any of these terms are acceptable on the football field (they're not), but this last one really seems to set the place on fire.
It had…

A radical change to the Offside Law for the amateur game

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Game 31, 2019-20
For amateur games where there are no neutral and qualified linesmen/assistant referees, I propose that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) add the following clauses to Law 11, Offside:
* Any team that attempts to influence the referee's decision by appealing for offside, either verbally or through gestures such as raising an arm, automatically renders the opposing player in an onside position. In this way, the unsportsmanlike conduct of the defending team directly benefits the attacking team.
* All attempts to influence the referee's decision with regard to offside decisions shall be classified as unsporting conduct, and be punishable with a caution (or a ten-minute time penalty in leagues that operate sin-bins).
* Any protest from an attacking player deemed by the referee to be in an offside position will likewise be punishable with a caution. 
This would be a radical change to the law, but it would make an immense difference to refereeing at the l…

Buffalos, Baby Bulls and Headless Geese - Gegenpressing in the Amateur Game

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Games 27-30, 2019-20
As teams warm up for the resumption of competitive league play, there's a rash of men's friendlies as the players try to get back into shape following the winter break. Many coaches seem to have spent their weeks away from the sideline studying the masters, and have decided that the best way to approach the second half of the season is with a spanking new tactical system they ripped off an Internet Chalkboard of Football Wisdom.
In practice, this currently means following the vogue for Pressing and Gegenpressing. Game pattern: for the first five minutes, let the opposition pass the ball around the back four. Next 40 minutes, yell "Pressure!" and send the forwards and midfield into hectic spoiler mode. There follow about 600 changes of possession, and almost as many fouls, as decidedly amateur players attempt to implement The Klopp Doctrine. Instead of looking like European champions, though, the teams look like decapitated geese in the farm yard af…

Finally, leadership from the top on dissent

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Games 25-26, 2019-20
During the winter break the German FA issued a set of instructions to its top flight referees regarding dissent, diving, time-wasting and aggressive behaviour towards referees. It reiterated that each offence on its long list was to be punished with a yellow card. The instructions were passed down the chain of command to all amateur referees. And so to my weekend.
Saturday afternoon: A boys U19 game between the second placed team (at home, in white) and the third (away, in black), separated only by goal difference. As we line up, I mention the new guidelines, and warn them that any kind of dissent will be punished with a yellow card. But these are teenage boys, and they probably need to be told at least 15 times before they take the information on board. In the eighth minute comes the first caution, for the forward on the white team who protests loudly about me calling his foul on a defender. In the 12th. minute comes the second yellow card, for a defender on the bl…