Trevor* is an up-and-coming referee who will blow the whistle each month on what it’s really like to take control of grassroots games…
According to the pundits (both those on TV and Sunday morning pitch-side commentators),
the best refs are those who “let the game flow” and “don’t make it all about them,” and to an
extent, they’re right. There are times when you can choose whether to blow your whistle.
And others when you don’t have any choice but to blow it repeatedly. A bugbear of those who think the “game’s gone” are the upholders of the foul throw rule. A diligent, passionate group of players and fans who appeal at the merest hint of a toe being on the line or off the ground. Quite often they’ve got good reason, as everyone knows what a foul throw looks like – there’s simply something not quite right.
Now, to be honest, foul throws put refs in an awkward situation, especially at the grassroots level. You have to make a decision as to whether you’re going to out yourself as a slave to the laws of the game or be a bit more liberal and prioritise goals over foul throws. Take a tip from Trevor…
Take the temperature of the game and only give it if things are threatening to boil over! Of course, there are times when it does hit boiling point and then your challenge is not whether to step in, but how and when. More often than not you feel it in your gut before it even happens. The pacey winger has picked up the ball and is about to run at the ageing full-back again or someone’s first touch has let them down once more, they’ve overrun the ball and yet they think it’s still there to be won…
When the bad foul comes, the inevitable melee (known in refereeing circles as a “mass confrontation”) follows. What the ref does next can often dictate just how long the rest of the game and your match report is going to be. As ever, there are two types of referee when the pushing and shoving commences. Firstly, there is The Hero. They pump their chest out, stand between the foes and factions and allow themselves to be pinballed around until everyone acknowledges that they’re not going anywhere. The Whistler takes a more diplomatic approach and demonstrates their presence by tooting while holding their yellow card in their other hand, hoping that this dual threat will arrest attention back in their direction. With this comes the risk that if this approach doesn’t work, those yellows become reds.
My favoured tactic, like all law enforcement officers (after all, that’s what we are), is being quick on the scene. If it is a red card challenge, run in and give it straight away. This often calms things down and more often than not the side that has gone down to ten men know it too. Not that it’ll stop them complaining. Here your pre-match running backwards warm-up will really serve you well. Fortunately, the majority of games pass without “mass confrontation” or the need to award foul throws, and players and fans can go home reasonably content that the ref was “alright”.
Believe it or not, that’s all we want. Especially as we’ve a ref’s report to write when we get home.
*Not his real name.