HACKETT’S VERDICT: I’ve had my nightmare games – and it’s tougher for...

HACKETT’S VERDICT: I’ve had my nightmare games – and it’s tougher for referees now

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Referees are human and will always be subject to making errors. That’s equally true whether it’s in a local park in front of one man and his dog or in the middle of a high intensity Premier League game watched by millions.

Your aim as a referee must be to deliver your very best performance. Yes, every game that you officiate should be your “Cup final.” Self-analysis and taking into account those reports produced by referee observers should form part of your learning curve.

Today’s game – at whatever level you officiate – is certainly more demanding than in my period out in the middle. But sometimes, across the many games I watch, I leave a ground disappointed knowing
that the referee, with more physical effort, could have delivered a much better performance.

The world of refereeing is very competitive and every performance counts. All too often referees shut off from any form of criticism or words of advice and sadly thereby lose an opportunity to enhance future performances.

Let me say now that we have all had nightmare games and been faced with howls of protest or that deadly silence when a club secretary is handing over your match fee. I can remember one Sunday morning game where I sent off two players for fighting. Afterwards, the secretary put his head around the dressing room door and threw onto the ground in front of me the couple of quid match fee. “Not good enough ref,” he said. I left the money on the floor and exited without picking it up. I knew that there was some truth in his comment.

The elite level referee is under microscopic analysis and exposed when one of the twenty two cameras highlights something that he has missed. For instance, Kevin Friend at Old Trafford last weekend missing, among other things, Zlatan Ibrahimovic elbowing an opponent, as caught on
camera.

Like many others, I was critical of THIS referee’s performance in THIS game. I was frustrated by the knowledge that up to that point he was having his best season and cementing his position in the Select Group. So it was about examining his performance and finding ways of ensuring that those errors are not repeated.

In these situations the referee coach should have an open and transparent conversation with the referee. The coach should sit with the referee and examine on DVD in detail why an offence was missed.

Clearly, positioning and viewing angle were adrift on the Ibrahimovic incident. So examine positioning and movement leading up to the offence. Was the referee too close and focusing on below the waist level resulting in the upper body foul being missed?

Was the referee watching the flight of the ball and not the challenge between the two players?

Did the referee see the clenched fist when the elbow moved backwards? That’s a clear signal that the action by the player was deliberate.

In viewing the incident through replays what has the referee learned? ;-

Was he too relaxed, laid back with reduced alertness and awareness?
Was he thinking of an earlier decision?
Was he distracted by comments from players?
Was he focusing on another potential flash point?
Where does he think a member of his team might have assisted him in ensuring
action would be taken to dismiss the player?
Were there any signals from players with regard to a reduction in respect
or an escalation of dissent?

The important thing for Kevin Friend is to learn from this error and to think about those many positive performances he has produced this season. Detailed review of performances is vital in order for referees to build on their strengths.

Let us hope that Kevin Friend, one of our top referees, can put behind him quickly this recent poor performance and look forward to performing well again. The PGMOL, with the loss of Mark Clattenburg, need him to return quickly. And the coaches and management have a duty to ensure that Kevin is given every possible support