For any young referees wanting to enhance their on field performance, look at the masterclass of management and communication regularly demonstrated by rugby union referee Nigel Owens.
Rugby has a record of adopting and refining technology. This allows spectators to listen in to the referee during games. It enhances the sport and for someone like myself, who does not understand the laws of union, it keeps me informed and connected with the game.
Owens communicates with authority and great clarity. He is very accurate in his decision-making and is partial to the odd quip that brings a smile to everyone.
In the game between the Barbarians and New Zealand you heard him say to a player: “If you are going to cheat, then cheat fairly.” This was one of his throwaway lines and, while unconventional, it is a communication and an expression of his human approach to officiating.
No one is left in doubt about his decisions or his verbal exchanges between himself and participating players. Professional players, whatever the game, want to put in a top class performance and, having watched Nigel Owens on a number of occasions, he is without doubt the world’s number one match official.
He uses words wisely and demonstrates a great deal of pro-active preventative officiating. “Please” to get the attention of the player before he communicates why he does not want that player to escalate his negative behaviour or if he is bordering on breaking the law.
I recently watched a young referee officiating a North East Counties game and was amazed by his lack of verbal communication, and this on more than one occasion left players bewildered by his decisions.
He was not operating the step process that top class referees have used for years:
The quiet word, off the ball, advising a player that you want an improvement in his behaviour often gains more than the threat of a yellow. This can be done whilst the game is in progress.
Stop the game, use the triangle method and request the player to join you with his captain. Your final warning can then be delivered.
So you young officials, look to review your communication procedures to enhance your refereeing.