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Referees, respect and Rooney

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George Riley George Riley | 14:27 UK time, Thursday, 7 April 2011

Referees, respect and Rooney - you'd have done well to have heard one of my sports bulletins over the past month without any of these being mentioned. As I drove to Hertfordshire to accept a Football Association invite to be a referee for the day, I found myself asking two questions: Do referees deserve their rough ride? How hard can the job actually be?

I'd be welcomed by FA bosses, given a theory test on the laws of the game, and then actually referee an academy game. So not only might I find that I don't fully understand all of football's rules, but I could also be facing the prospect of being verbally abused on the pitch by the county's top teenage footballers. Why would I agree to that? I quite like a challenge, so I decided to give it a go.

Arriving unshaven in a pathetic bid to look intimidating, I am greeted by my guide Roger Vaughan, a national referee manager and a thoroughly good bloke. This is a relief, having had visions of boot-camp tutoring by Pierluigi Collina's more intimidating older brother.

Roger and his colleagues, including 2002 World Cup final assistant Phil Sharp, outline some of the pressures officials are under. Phil tells me that he could make a dubious offside call early in a game that leads to or denies a goal and regardless of the remainder of his performance, he knows he can only be marked 59/100 by his assessors.

Preparing to referee my first match with assistants Richard and Simon

"It plays on your mind right up until half-time when you can find out whether you got it right," he says.

So officials actually find out at half-time if they've got things wrong?

"They can do, as even if you don't check the decisions, there's always a TV producer in the tunnel happy to tell you before the players do," Phil reveals.

At the heart of officiating, it seems, is 'bouncebackability' - the thick skin to continue with your head up when you know you've got one wrong.

I'm then handed my referee's kit - beaming black with shorts that are a little on the snug side - and introduced to my assistants Richard and Simon, who will run the line.

This is where the nerves start; they are very professional, whereas I know full well I only have a muddy pair of white boots in my bag.

"The players will be here in an hour so we better run through the theory," says Roger, as I head back into the classroom for the first time since the mind-numbing days of medieval French literature at university in the late 90s.

There's a speech on the FA's drive to attract more officials, in which referee retention rather than recruitment emerges as key. I struggle to get my head around the idea of persuading 14-year-olds to train up as refs - surely they would prefer to play?

Then comes the test and I'm asked to pinpoint the fundamental skills required to become a successful referee. I go for confidence, decisiveness, common sense and ability to communicate. I'm told that of the 17 laws of football, common sense is actually referred to as the unofficial 18th.

There's an in-depth study of "law 12" - that's fouls and misconduct to you and me. I'm shown a series of tackles on the big screen and I have to be the ref, dividing each into categories of careless, reckless and excessive force and dishing out the appropriate punishment.

That negotiated, I'm sent off to get kitted up - and now the fun starts. Anyone can play the armchair ref - but can I cut it in the heat of battle?

The players are from Luton Town's academy. I can hear them talking about me in the changing room next door, which isn't hugely helpful to my confidence as I unearth my muddy white boots from a plastic bag, still sodden from last Saturday's 11-a-side run out.

I feel a little sick as I put on the black shirt for the first time. I'm one of those annoyingly mouthy footballers in the London Saturday League so this is a poacher-turned-gamekeeper scenario.

My main difficulty is actually remembering I'm refereeing. I just get in the players' way

The next setback is not having a stopwatch but thankfully Richard has two, and down the tunnel we go. The first thing I see is my group of assessors staring at my feet.

"What the heck are you wearing?" asks Phil. "Are they leopardskin?"

"No, muddy white," I reply before being admonished, but let off given Martin Keown had previously turned up for the same seminar in a brand spanking new pair of ice-whites.

The presentation of cards, pencil and whistle takes place and we're ready to go. Almost. I don't have a coin for the toss - something I didn't even think about. I brief my assistants ("if it all kicks off I expect you to pile in and save me") and the two captains ("I'll respect you so I expect the same back regardless of whether I'm a qualified ref").

And we're off. 30 seconds into the game, I remember to start my stopwatch. The first-half is surprisingly comfortable. As a friendly, they take it easy on me and I only have to award one free-kick.

My main difficulty is actually remembering I'm refereeing. As I still play football, I start taking up positions that I'd normally occupy in central midfield. But as a ref, I just get in the players' way. My other main first-half shortcoming is losing my pencil out of my pocket, so I have to keep score in my head until I borrow another at half-time.

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The second half proves much tougher. Unbeknown to me, Phil has given the players a half-time gee-up and told them to create havoc in the second half. The pace increases, tackles fly in, the backchat starts and I begin sweating. Several decision are greeted with "you serious ref?". I do my best to keep calm and give as good as I get: "I'm not talking to you like that so don't talk to me like that please son".

I'm handed two big decisions to make. I wave away penalty appeals after playing the advantage because I feel the keeper got the ball - but next time the same goalie cleans out a striker and I have to point to the spot. I decide not to caution or dismiss the keeper as the ball was heading off to the corner flag, although the manager tells me afterwards he wanted to see a red.

I'm still dwelling on this days later, so heaven knows how proper refs deal with the aftermath. I later disallow a goal for a foul throw, infuriating for the attacking team - but the correct call, if ridiculously late.

I'm pretty relieved to see the clock tick over and whistle for full-time. There's no player-rage at my performance, which I take as a positive, and the assessors seem reasonably happy. I'm told my plus points were my fitness, desire to play advantage and let the game flow, and continued communication with players. My negatives are positioning myself as a player rather than a ref, and often yelling decisions while forgetting to actually whistle and signal.

I leave with two main thoughts. One is that I'm a shade nostalgic at these hugely talented young footballers with their dream still alive, given I'd gone through the schoolboy ranks before admitting I was not good enough. But my most surprising thought is I actually really enjoyed refereeing, which I didn't expect. It strikes home that referees are human beings, and their matchday is just as big as it is for the players. Plus I wasn't sworn at once.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well thats a load of rubbish. Why write a blog about this for its got nothing to do with professional football.

  • Comment number 2.

    I recently found myself reffing whilst unable to play due to injury, and the assigned ref not turning up; I would find myself instinctively drifting into space as though i was playing and at one point almost went up for a header. Not easy making the transition.
    I tried to let the game flow as much as possible and i didn't get much stick from either team (if anything i got worse from the players on my team). But even so I've come to respect the ref's more now I realise just how difficult it actually is - especially as we don't have lines-men (a sub from each team runs the line calling throw-ins hardly counts).
    Whilst considering if a tackle is late, the play can have moved from one end of the pitch to the other, and then you get stick for calling it back for a foul. I don't envy anyone who does it week in week out, and they've got my respect. I'm not planning on foraging into the world of officialdom anytime soon thats for sure.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good on you for having a go George, but if you want to get a taste of what real refereeing is like try taking charge of a Sunday League game like I do every week! Believe me, there's no chance of players going easy on you then. I thought I'd heard just about every expletive there is, but I've learnt a few new ones since I started.
    I'm really glad that you recognised the most important aspect of refereeing though, that no matter how much grief we get the reason we all do it is because we thoroughly enjoy it. If all the decisions were easy it wouldn't be nearly as much fun!

  • Comment number 4.

    Why don't you do your next blog on sports journalism, where you're given 30 minutes to make up as much filler as possible

  • Comment number 5.

    re # 1
    This comment just goes to show the lack of respect and understanding of the pressures of being a ref.

    The blog explains the problems of being a ref in a small unimportant game....If he had a problem in this game and felt himself underpressure, just imagine the pressure in a pro' game with every decision every comment inspected and commented on ..not only by the players, management but also the crowd. The rules of football are the same in the amateur game as they are in the professional.
    It is traditional to question the refs' decisions but the verocity of this is growing and campaigns such as RESPECT do not really address the problem.
    I truly hope that this abuse does not grow to the extent that it has here in Brasil where the officials are always escorted from the pitch by armed riot police.

    Well done George and entertaining and enlightening blog which tries to show the pressure that officials are under today ...makes you wonder why anyone would want to do this thankless task.

  • Comment number 6.

    I can't understand comments claiming this blog is irrelevant or filler. The game needs referees coming through the ranks as much as it needs young players, coaches and fans, so it's just as relevant to the professional game as a piece on youth academies or coaching schools.

    Well done for having a go, George - would love to know how Martin Keown got on!

  • Comment number 7.

    An interesting read, and good on you for having a go - as much as football fans up and down the country (including me) have a go at officials we perceive as having a nightmare, I wouldn't have the guts to ref even a non-game like this, let alone in the professional game.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good blog George and given the recent discussions on referees performances very relevent.
    Had a small smile to myself reading it as I just had this image of you as the ref arriving late into the penalty area and planting a header into the top corner

    Maybe we should have all pro players (especially premier league ones) referee at least one match (junior or accademy level) a season. Should give them an idea of how difficult the job is and a taste of their own abuse.

    To repeat a point I've made a few times though the FA needs to give the referees more help to try eliminate some of the mistakes we do see week in week out.

    George (and any qualified referees out there), from your experience do you think there is something the FA can do to help the referees reduce the number of errors made?

  • Comment number 9.

    So, did the assessors think you'd got any of the 'big' decisions wrong? Was it a pen? Should you have shown red? Was it a foul throw?

    Which actually raises an interesting question - is there a point at which you've taken so long to make a decision you can no longer pull back play?

  • Comment number 10.


    There is very little they can do to iron out the errors. People seem to think that the number of errors have grown, but that is because instant replays and camera views have become greater in number and quality.

    The valuations are very very harsh. The professional referees, in particular, watch video replays and are duly criticised or applauded by their peers. Due to the competitive nature of the job, these can be the harshest of all. (The only opinion worth its salt is really that of unbiased other referees or the refereeing body.)

    The marking scheme mentioned in the blog, that the tiniest mistake hits your marks hard, shows how harsh they still are, is as is applied during the game. Often match assessments mark the referee down on things that players wouldn't even notice. In a real match situation, Mr Riley would have failed miserably due to his poor positioning (he seems to have done very well considering he hardly had any training). I was only allowed out on the pitch after about twenty four hours of training.

    In fact, sometimes the demands are so harsh that they could be construed as cruel and unfair.
    The standards are so high, the fact that the top refs don't all get demoted every season is testament to their skill.

    The referee makes hundreds of decisions throughout a given match. The number of mistakes tends to be in single figures. It's incredible that these numbers are reached. So, no, there isn't much that can be done.
    These few mistakes could be lessened (but still not totally eradicated),

    judgement calls are a crucial part of referee decision making

    with video replays, but FIFA blocks this. It's nonsense, really, because the idea is that parks football should be the same as professional football, but in parks football the referee has no assistants at all. Introducing an extra two officials to make five assistants in total makes it even less similar. Most referees find that the goalline assistants do not significantly help either.

    The question cannot be sufficiently answered, because it assumes something that isn't true, that referees are anything but exemplery at their role. (The higher up the football pyramid, the more experience and skill you get, but this is not alterable.)

  • Comment number 11.

    Pierlugi Collini is working with UEFA on improving refereeing standards even more. I can't imagine better hands.

  • Comment number 12.

    Erm... on 2:30 (penalty) you and the instructor were both wrong. You played on, the instructor wanted a retake for a missed penalty which is definitely wrong! It should have been an indirect free kick to the defence from the penalty mark.

  • Comment number 13.


  • Comment number 14.

    At Manu4good, comment #1, I assume you're a Man Utd supporter. With an ignorant comment like that, Sir Alex and Wayne would be proud of you.

  • Comment number 15.

    @Welsh Manc,

    You almost certainly got more stick from your own players, but likewise, you almost certainly (in your effort to be fair) gave them the (at least slightly) worse end of your decisions. Human nature, well it's that, or outright cheat...

  • Comment number 16.

    Well thats a load of rubbish. Why write a blog about this for its got nothing to do with professional football.

    At Manu4good, comment #1, I assume you're a Man Utd supporter. With an ignorant comment like that, Sir Alex and Wayne would be proud of you.

    #1 You're an idiot. The sort of person who doesn't give refs enough thought.

    #14 You're an idiot - don't stereotype.

  • Comment number 17.

    Well I enjoyed reading this blog

  • Comment number 18.

    Pretty much everything said by Ligeti_Grieg and Welsh Manc I agree with. I've been a referee for 2 years now and can say that it's tremendously hard work, despite never having ventured above under-16 games! I certainly do not envy pro referees giving huge calls in huge games - it's a no-win situation. If you call it wrong, you're slated and demoted (undermining your confidence even more); if you make the right decision nobody really notices.

    Having said that, it does make it hugely easier to have 2 qualified linesmen - most club assistants are pathetic and i've even had a couple that didn't know offside. I also once reffed an academy match with no linesman of any form - despite both coaches insisting they didn't mind if i made a few mistakes as a result, they were fuming when I gave offsides. The positioning required makes it impossible to see everything going on and having an extra 2 pairs of eyes certainly helps.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    further consideration, yeah haha :)

  • Comment number 21.

    Ligeti Grieg (#10)

    Agreed that the cameras have highlighted mistakes that would have been missed in the past. I would also suggest that some of the rule changes about tackling to promote skillful playing has increased the grey areas where a referee can make a mistake or even a judgement call that others would disagree with. Afterall some of the dangerous challenges that get red cards now would not even have been a foul in the past (Note I agree with changing the rules to increase skillful play and reduce/eliminate dangerous tackles that could injure players).

    I also do not want to imply that the referees are doing a horrendous job - as you say the vast majority of decisions made in a match are correct.
    However there are decisions being made that everyone when they see them live thinks and are right "that was a wrong decision" (bad language removed). It is these rather than the 50/50 judgement calls we need to try to eliminate.
    It may be hard to do but then nothing worthwhile is easy.
    Also it is hard because at this point we don't even know WHY they are making the wrong decisions? Let's strap a camera to the head of the referee so the evaluator can see what he sees. This can then be reviewed afterwards so you can mark the referee on the things he saw. You can also then mark him on (and hence improve) whether he was looking in the correct place. It also allows you to say, he was looking in the right place but couldn't see it so how can we have someone in the right place to see it?

    I agree about TV replays partially but for a different reason (top flight cricket, rugby and tennis use them but they aren't used lower down in those sports). I am still a little unconvinced as to i we can integrate TV replays without causing delays and moving play back too far. If we could get around that issue I would definitely support TV replays.

    Offside is one area I think could be improved on as currently it is physically impossible for the the linesman to see the last defender and the attacker AND the ball at the same time when the ball is played long.

    Maybe one thing the FA could do is give fans the stats showing for each game what % of decisions were correct. (where television cameras were present this can be reviewed after the game as well). Show them 99.5% of decisions are correct

  • Comment number 22.

    Well done George.

    Refereeing is a tough job, and I think most fans would learn an enormous amount from doing it for a while like you've done.

    Because they haven't got the slightest idea how tough it can be when you aren't just watching on TV, able to watch from the comfort of your arm chair, or even in the football match crowd, and not having to make decisions that whichever way you go, at least one half of the crowd is going to boo and be upset with you.

    But Premier League and international referees make so many mistakes, this is not a subject to be taken lightly.

    Referees on the pitch have got to be supported by off pitch officials watching on video cameras, or else we'll continue to have travesties of justice in football, which can even decide who wins the European or World Cups.

    But I do defend your piece of journalism, because little do some of the readers here realise, there's just no understanding somebody else's job until you've tried it yourself, as you in my view somewhat bravely did.

  • Comment number 23.

    spend a day learning to be a ref

    what a great punishment to dish out to players showing a lack of respect to refs.

  • Comment number 24.

    Re ManchesterUnited4Ever and errors made

    The problem we have as opposed to cricket say, is that the laws or football are not matter of fact, they are in the "opinion of the referee"

    Case in point - Nemanja Vidic vs West Ham - You can make an argument both ways that he should have been sent - so there is no right or wrong.

    As opposed to cricket, pitching in line, hitting in line, hitting the stumps are all matter of fact... you even saw in the world cup what happens when in the opinion of the umpire he is not playing a shot the controversy and discussion it caused.

    So a challenge to one ref is a foul, to another it's not, remember it's not always a clean tackle if he gets the ball, so on and so forth.

    Yes technology can be used for ball in and out of play but you'll struggle to introduce it elsewhere.

  • Comment number 25.

    Is there not a case for making every player and manager do the refereeing course? At least then they would know the rules - which I am increasingly convinced that they don't.
    And while we're at it - how about every commentater/pundit too - they style themselves as experts, but some of what they say is laughable in its incorrectness!!

  • Comment number 26.

    Saturday, football and Rooney: Saturday today, football just finished and Rooney is probably going to have dinner after 6:00 too. (everything has added value if you apply the magical word, like this article).

  • Comment number 27.

    12 - wrong. The offence is feinting in the run-up. Therefore it takes place before the penalty kick is taken and the player should, as the instructor quite rightly says, be cautioned before the penalty is then taken correctly (not 'again', as it hasn't actually yet been taken). You cannot take a penalty away from a team that hasn't yet taken it correctly.

  • Comment number 28.

    Good to see you tried George - every coach should be required to referee 3 games before being in charge of a team, would make the hob that little bit easier.

    My one complaint is that academy football is not like u12's-18's in public parks where th majority of referees lose their desire to get abused. Mainly the parents are the proble, you can deal with players but 50 gown men telling you what they will do to you after the game is quite intimidating especially if you start at a young age. Not all games are like this and many teams absolutely charming but if you were to become a ref, even for 3 months or so, and then write a review I promise you much more analysis would be possible of the problems with football in the UK. Coaches and parents kill the was the game is played and the way the players act from a young age by encouraging negative behaviour.

    It's a really sad state of affairs how we continuously shoot ourselves in the foot.

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't know about all this, but what I do know is that it's a bit daft that we use technology to film and record a celebrity player swearing after scoring a goal, but not to establish whether or not the ball went over the line.

  • Comment number 30.

    i read what u said about ref a 14yr olds football match and you said u didnt hear 1 swear word? get to your docs your going deaf,,

  • Comment number 31.

    #1 and #4 show they don't understand the first thing about football with their comments. This was a public relations exercise - a stunt, if you like. However, it did get over some of the difficulties referees face in games and did ably demonstrate and refute the popular misconception that anybody can be a referee.

  • Comment number 32.

    As relevant a blog as one could be. The game has moved on in quality but refereeing has not, I watched the Chelsea Wigan game yesterday and saw Ashley Cole cynically stop a Wigan player on the attack and Howard Webb blew for a free kick but did not produce a yellow, this was not the first in the game that went as unpunished. The first yellow he produced was for a Wigan player taking too long over a throw in. Absolute madness. We need professional refs and the English game needs to be feffed as though it were a European or international game
    Until then, lets enjoy the days of mistakes and "blood and thunder".

  • Comment number 33.

    I've been officiating at park level for nearly 16 years and enjoy it immensely but two aspects of refereeing are very obvious: 1/ Most players simply don't know the laws of the game. For example ask the average player if, following a late tackle, a direct free-kick should be awarded or an indirect free-kick and they probably won't know! 2/ Referees now put the emphasis on "managing" matches hence something that isn't a yellow card in the 7th minute may well be in the 77th or vice versa.

  • Comment number 34.

    Chelsea v Wigan and Rooney:

    the Chelsea goal was a foul to the keeper yesterday, but nobody seems to mention it. As for the Rooney bit, I wanted to have something in accordance to the title of this article. :)

  • Comment number 35.

    #32, all top-flight referees are professional and it is all administered through the PGMO.

    #25, as a qualified football ref I can vouch for the fact the majority of fans, most of whom are 'educated' by TV pundits have absolutely no idea about the rules of football.

    Common mistakes include, but are not limited to, believing winning the ball is the key determining factor in awarding a foul, instead (apart from dangerous tackles) its whether the man or the ball is taken first and if you watch TV replays at full speed you'll realise this isn't the easiest thing to always determine.

    Another big mistake is complaining when a referee awards a DFK against a player who slides in and fails to touch either player or ball. Law 12 actually explicitly mentions 'attempted fouls', which is what these would be classed as.

    The points about tv footage highlighting mistakes more so than in the past to me was highlighted in the Chelsea v Man Utd game on Wednesday with the Ramires penalty incident. At the time and without having seen a replay I called it a good foul because the ball went in the direction you'd have expected had Evra made contact with it and I expect that was the opinion of the referee and even to an extent the linesman. However, as the cameras showed, the additional official behind the goal (a proposal I think that is an incredibly good one as long as those officials actually make decisions) should have seen as clear as day that Evra didn't make contact with the ball.

  • Comment number 36.

    Also, George you are not alone in struggling with correct positioning. In one of the CL games this week (the Chelsea one I think) the referee consistently ran the wrong line. You are taught right from the beginning to run diagonally so that if you were in a corner of the pitch it would be opposite your assistant.

    The referee in question seemed to be running the diagonal from assistant to assistant.

    So if supposedly one of the top referees can't position himself correctly I wouldn't worry hugely about it George.

  • Comment number 37.

    Just shows the pressure that refs are under.

    But there is a solution which is very easy & will rid the game of so many idiot types of behaviour. Such as shirt pulling, dissent, dangerous play.

    At the moment Refs are on the spot they take the flack. So let us take away some of that responsibility & place it on the club & manager. If a player gets a yellow card or a red card all of these offences are logged. When they reach a certain agreed number the club then loses a point in the league. Clubs, in particular the managers, will fall over themselves to improve the behaviour of their players & also themselves. Managers should also be included for dissent & logges. I bet there will be an instant & remarkable change.


  • Comment number 38.

    Matt Busby and Bobby Charlton gave ManU a respectable image toaday its image is in the gutter and is supported by louts likes of # 1, and # 14 is spot on.

  • Comment number 39.

    whether this is a load of tosh or not, why is it the main link on the Rugby news page?

    BBC, have you lost the plot.

  • Comment number 40.

    Every Player should go to a ref's course to learn the Laws of the Game.
    When I coached high School I insisted all my players got their ref's badges at youth level for a better understanding of the game.
    This made it easier to coach them.
    They said it really helped in game situations and they found themselves to be able to position themselves better during games giving them the advantage over the opposing team.
    Know where and what the ref does ultimately helped them.
    Most of my players went on to ref junior games.
    I am a National badge under AYSO in the US.

  • Comment number 41.

    Refreshing topic for a blog. Reffing is one aspect of football that generates a lot of talking points, but probably not many people know much about - myself included.

    I think respect for the ref is just something that you need to be brought up with in the game. I played rugby for years, which seems to have a better level of respect; not because the players are any different, just more was vented under the breath than directly at refs.

    It helps having rules like being able to award an extra 10 yards on a penalty for backchat; when you start losing points for being mouthy and the rest of the team is looking at you, you soon learn to shut up.

  • Comment number 42.

    38. At 19:25pm 10th Apr 2011, Tanglefoot Twitch wrote:
    Matt Busby and Bobby Charlton gave ManU a respectable image toaday its image is in the gutter and is supported by louts likes of # 1, and # 14 is spot on.


    And to 1, 14 and 38 I would say that its a real shame that a blog like this can't pass by without childish Big Club bickering.

  • Comment number 43.

    So, George, are you going to post a blog about rugby league on the football forum then?

    I was looking forward to reading another of your RUGBY LEAGUE blogs, since this is a rugby league blog. What a disappointment to read a piece about a sport which is not rugby league and therefore should not be on here. I also personally find soccer tedious and the obsession with it even more so.

    If you'd wanted to talk about referees in RUGBY LEAGUE then that would have been great: there's plenty to talk about in our game.

    Please don't do this again.

  • Comment number 44.

    All hail the obligatory stupid ass commenter, this time to be found at post Number 1!

  • Comment number 45.

    Can't wait for you to ref a local RL game...

  • Comment number 46.

    some interesting comments guys, and the usual timewasters ofcourse ...
    It was a really enjoyable experience and it idd surprise me that I enjoyed refereeing. I can imagine days when I would come away from a game hating it too though.
    re comments #39 and especially #43 DiSaint - "please dont do this again". How rude! Where items are placed on this website has absolutely nothing to do with me. It is on the football page, and presumably has also popped up on the RL page as it features their RL man stepping out of his comfort zone. I don't know, you'd have to take it up elsewhere... If you'd rather not read it then don't do so.
    #45 Dave - watch this space ... had a good chat with Stu Cummings on this which I'll outline in a follow up blog this week.

  • Comment number 47.

    George - what a cop out.

    As the voice of RL in the BBC i would expect a better response to DiSaint. The very least you can do is provide the details of who you refer to when you say others are responsible, and how they are contactable.

    You have certainly lost my respect.

  • Comment number 48.

    George, I wasn't being rude. Far from it. I was disappointed. Sometimes people are just disappointed.

  • Comment number 49.

    Back in the glorious Leeds United championship year of 1974, I was 11 years old and I used to watch the Sunday league matches on the Stonegate Road fields. One time the game I was watching was missing a linesman and the ref said, "Hey kid, do you want to be the linesman? Just put your flag up when the ball goes our of play." Magic! I thought, this should be fun. So one time someone hoofs the ball upfield in the air, and it clearly crosses the touchline, but being windy, the ball was blown back infield and bounced back on the pitch, but I had already raised my flag. Remember i was only 11, and i remember being seriously scared for my personal safety when several of the the players ran over and started f-ing and blinding at me like I'd just murdered their sweet old granny. It was really horrible and vicious and quite traumatic for a young lad, and it was only over a throw-in - it's not like i waved for a handball in the box. Ever since then I've always had sympathy for referrees, especially in big telivised games and understand how they only have that live split second to make a decision. I have to add that my sympathy for refs doesn't quite include the gentlemen who refereed the 1972 Cup Winners' Cup Final and the 1975 European Cup Final because the trauma of that latter bitter disappointment overshadowed anything i experienced as a junior linesman back in '74.


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