Today my son’s game had an extremely good referee group. The center referee and his two linesmen called the game very well. Despite the fact that they did a great job and got the majority of the calls right (even the ones that went against my son’s team), there were still complaints from parents. Which made me wonder if people really have any idea what makes for a good referee or if they just want calls to go in their team’s favor? Here are some thoughts to consider.
The level matters – Recognize that the job of a referee changes as the age and the level of play changes. At the lowest levels, the referee is part of a learning process. Their job is more about managing the understanding of the game rather than calling “fouls”. Often the sidelines are complaining about things that are poor body control and not actually a foul. The higher levels require much more reading of the flow of the game. A good referee will identify possible problems developing in the play. Their use of cards, advantage, player discussions and fouls called/not called will depend largely upon their reading of the game and individual’s roles within in it. So as you are watching a game, give some thought as to the level of soccer being played and what the referee’s role truly is at that level.
Perspective matters – By design, referees are intended to be a neutral third party at the game. So they are not carrying the bias that most of us bring to the game. Their decisions are based upon what they see and not what they feel. This creates another issue for most fans because their vantage point is completely different from that of the referee’s. So it is not only possible but actually completely accurate to say that fans and referees have seen a different game. Most of the time this is done with no instant replay, no VAR with different camera angles. This is done live with twenty two players running in all directions and possibly screening the view. Despite these major obstacles, perfection is the standard that many expect.
The Laws are the Laws – A good referee will call the game based on the laws of the game, not public perception of what the laws are. There are many things that are commonly shouted from fans or even coaches about things that do not apply to the Laws of the game. “Winning the ball” for example does not make a player immune from having a foul called against them. If the play is deemed to be reckless, then a foul is appropriate regardless of who won the ball. A large number of players, fans and coaches have only a cursory knowledge of the Laws that are based more on hearsay rather than actual study.
Obviously this is just a small sample but each is worth considering. The game requires referees and the good ones need to be identified, praised and promoted. I fear that many people involved in the soccer world would not be able to identify a good referee if they saw one. That is unfortunate because that means that people are unable to see past their own desires. Most of the soccer played in this country is youth soccer. Therefore the majority of children are getting a skewed view of right and wrong. Right means in my favor and wrong means anything else. The ability to be objective could be lost.