Everyone has their own way of dealing with referees on match day. I like to think that I’m seen as one of the easier Managers that officials have to deal with in my league. I’ve always been a big believer that no matter what has happened in matches involving this ref in previous games, if you are civil and do what you have to do before the game without issue, then you are both starting with a clean slate. If there is any chance I can get a ref onside before a game though I will take it. I always try to get a laugh with them or ask them if they want a cup of tea before the game and throw them over a bottle of water or juice at halftime or if I am really on the ball speak about their favourite football team and pretend they are mines too. These little details might reduce that straight red to a yellow or be the difference between the ball being over the goal line at the oppositions end. Is it cheating? I don’t think so, being nice to a ref is part and parcel of amateur football for me.
I would never criticise someone who gets out of their bed on a Saturday for £40 a match given the amount of abuse that they take and occasional pressure they are under. I think the money they get isn’t that much when you take into consideration they have to buy their own kit, travel to games as far away as Oban and Dunoon or further and pay postage on all of the reports they must submit every week. If it wasn’t for these guys we couldn’t play football.
I am concerned sometimes to hear of referees getting fed up with the game and leaving it altogether. There is definitely a shortage of good refs at the moment and the leagues should be doing their bit to try and keep the good ones as well as encouraging the young guys through. We could do with a cull of the guys only interested in taking the money. We all know the types, they turn up like a bag of washing wearing all of the old kit, standing in the centre circle the whole match going through the motions having never played football in their life to inspect a park that should never be played on and call the game on at the risk of players gaining injuries. We all have these guys in our associations and if we had more young quality refs we could cut some of these guys loose.
I try to remind my players at every opportunity that referees do this as a hobby, albeit a paid hobby. There is never anything to be gained by abusing a referee or constantly berating his decisions. In any walk of life if you spoke to someone the way some players and spectators speak to our referees there would be a totally different outcome as to what you get on a football park. Sometimes the balance of a match can hang on who pisses of a referee most. I know a few refs on a personal level and socialise with some of them. I was shocked when I first heard one of them say that they had (team name) on Saturday and if (player name) is playing he is on a card as soon as I hear his voice because I can’t stand him. That’s the harsh reality of it. Refs are just normal guys doing a hobby they enjoy on a weekend. As soon as someone sticks their head above the parapet to spoil their enjoyment then its game on for them. I try to hammer that message home to my players regularly but sometimes guys just get caught up in the emotion of it all and can’t help themselves. If a player abuses you on the park then he annoys you, you try your best to beat him or to put a decent tackle in on him or make sure you celebrate your next goal with gusto. It motivates you to win. For referees it’s the same thing. If you are out of order towards him it motivates him to beat you, to give you a showing up and to think twice about giving you the next decision. That might not sit right with some people, especially referees who will tell you that every ref is impartial and every decision is made with a balanced and neutral mind set. That’s not the case at our level though where there are no tv cameras to show replays or pundits to reflect on a poor decision. At amateur level the referee is boss whether we like that or not.
There is a ref in my league whom I know for a fact has a real problem with my team. I have no idea why but every match seems to pass with some sort of incident involving him and with him making decisions against us that even baffle the opposition. He once told one of my players to “shut the fuck up” and when the player swore back at him conversationally he booked him. What chance do you have when this is going on. I have always resisted the urge to complain about him to the league as there is always the chance that he would find out about the complaint and who it came from and that we would no doubt see him as our ref on a more frequent basis, plus I think he is seen as one of the better refs in the league as he always seems to be appointed to bigger matches and finals etc. Referees also speak to each other on a regular basis, especially when they attend at their league meetings and share changing rooms at the centres with a few parks so the risk is that my club would gain a bit of a reputation in these circles and other refs might turn against us for making the complaint. Regardless of this guy’s issue I always make sure I am hospitable to him when he arrives on the day of the game and always speak politely to him over the phone. He may have an issue with the club but I have never given him the chance to say a bad word about me which might stand in my favour if we ever have to go down the official line of complaining about him. Hopefully it never comes to that and we can just get on with our football.
Let the game flow