Thursday, 31 August 2017

"Let them know you're pissed off!" A Ref's Guide to Anger Management

Game 14, 2017-18

I'm faced with anger almost every game, and the general idea is that I, as the referee, must remain a steady rock of calm amid a thunderous sea of foaming fury. Yet there are times when it pays to show that you are, at the very least, mildly irritated. Here's my guide to anger management while refereeing:

The bloody huddle: for
 Christ's sake, get on with it.
1. Before the game. Both teams should have signed off on their final line-ups half an hour before kick-off, and the home side must produce a print-out of the teams for me to check against their player passes. This happens maybe once or twice a season. Upon arrival I always introduce myself to both coaches with a smile and a handshake, but I become less genial the closer we are to kick off and the coaches are still faffing around with passes and mobile phones. Less than 15 minutes before kick-off, I become exasperated. And if it turns out I can't check the passes until half-time then I pass into 'stern lecture' mode to let the wayward coach know I've already marked his card as incompetent.

2. Just before kick-off. You know the scene. Hands shaken, coins tossed, we're ready to start, but one of the teams has hunched into a huddle for a doubtless inspiring last-minute speech from the captain. That's okay, if they keep it short, but often they don't. I give a double-blast of the whistle to let them know that I don't like waiting around. Then sometimes there's one of those stupid, ritualistic
team chants which, to my knowledge, has never yet helped anyone to win a game. Congratulations, wannabe Maoro warriors, you've already shown your disrespect for me and the opposition before we've even kicked a ball.

The referee's principal weapon.
3. Bad Fouls. During my first year of refereeing in the US, an experienced referee who was my linesman that day took me to one side at half-time and taught me about using my whistle to communicate. "All your whistles sound the same," he said. "For minor infringements, give a short whistle. For bad fouls, blast it long and hard, let them know you're pissed off." No such useful information had been given on my training course, but it was the best 30-second seminar I've had in 10 years of refereeing.

4. Dissent. If a player is genuinely outraged at a call (or non-call), I'm as likely to be worried that I screwed up the call as I am to be angry, depending on the circumstances. I might even say, "Sorry if I missed that, I was at the wrong angle." Last night (boys' U19 Cup game, second round) I got angry at the other kind of dissent. A perfectly legitimate away goal is claimed as offside by a home defender who stands before me, points to his peepers, and says, "Open your eyes, ref." Doesn't sound so bad on paper, but that doesn't convey the insolence and disrespect. I show him a yellow and vociferously explain why he'll be off the field if he opens his mouth again.

Read these or
shut up. Cheers.
5. Not knowing the rules. When a player tries to tell you that you don't know the Laws of the Game. This really tweaks my ire. Again, an example from last night's game: I wait for an offside player to get to the ball before I call it. One of his team-mates very stroppily asks me why I've waited so long to blow the whistle. "Have you even read the Laws of the Game?" I ask him sharply. "Until you have, keep your mouth shut." I concede this last order was too harsh, and probably would be frowned upon by referees' assessors, but there are never any assessors at my games so occasionally I'm a Law unto myself. And I'll forever be far, far away from becoming the perfect ref.

6. Flare-ups. Controlled anger is the key here, because obviously you don't want to wade in drunkenly scattering absinthe on to an already open flame. Again, use the whistle, and preferably blow so loud that it hurts the players' ears and they get distracted from pushing, shoving and insulting each others' mothers. Continue to look like you're mightily pissed off right through the ensuing lectures and disciplinary measures, even if you're thinking, "This whole situation is so absurd that I just want to laugh in their faces and tell them to grow up, for Christ's sake."

7. Post-game. It's been a horror show from both teams, both coaches. The home coach hands you your match fee and tries to apologise with a weak smile, saying something like, "Relegation fight, you know how it is." I say nothing, but think, 'Too late, mate. You helped make this a shit afternoon for everyone, and I won't forget you or your rancid club the next time we meet.' And home I go without a civil parting shot.

Final score: 2-5 (6 x yellow)

Ian Plenderleith's next book, 'The Quiet Fan', will be published by Unbound in 2018. Click here to pre-order an e-book or paperback copy.

No comments:

Post a Comment