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The Soccer Referee: The Most Difficult Job in Sports?

The Thankless Job of a Soccer Referee

The old saying goes that the referee is doing a good job when you don’t even notice that he’s there.

Of course, no player, team, or fan in the world will ever think that the referee is calling the game fairly when the calls are not going in their favour.  As a result, the referee is usually the target of much scorn.

Role of the Referee

Soccer Referee

Nonetheless, the referee is a necessary component of the game.  His job is to make sure that the 17 Laws of the Game are enforced.  Specific responsibilities include:

  • Keeping track of the time
  • Awarding free kicks for fouls
  • Maintaining discipline by issuing either red or yellow cards
  • Stopping or suspending the match due to weather conditions

He is joined in this task by the linesmen, who are primarily responsible with calling the offside infraction.  Situated on the sidelines of the field, the linesman can also award free-kicks as well as determine the direction of a throw-in.

At the professional level especially, a fourth referee is part of the officiating crew.  This referee will keep track of substitutions and ensure that the team managers are kept in check.

This referee can also advise the referee of any calls he may have missed.  The Zinedine Zidane incident in the 2006 World Cup was a famous example of the assistant referee making the main official aware of an infraction.

Tips for Dealing with the Referee

A soccer referee is a human being, and is doing a job just like anyone else.  As hard as this is going to be to accept, it’s simply unrealistic to expect that the referee is going to get the call right 100% of the time.

Moreover, giving the referee a piece of your mind, while satisfying, is usually fruitless.  The referee is subject to bias, whether intentional or not, and marking yourself as a troublemaker will only harm your team in the long run.

Instead, keep these tips in mind to ensure that, at the very least, you stay on your referee’s good side.

  • No matter how much you disagree with the call, close your mouth and walk away
  • A handshake after the game will go a long way to making sure the referee remembers you favourably the next time around
  • If your league requires you to hand-in a game sheet and payment to the referee before each game, please ensure its given to him promptly...referees appreciate this
  • While it may be part of his duties, the referee really doesn’t want to have to break up fights....control your team mates
  • Parents: We all know the referee just made a gross injustice making that call against your child.  Now take a deep breath and relax.  There’s nothing you can do about it...other than embarrassing your child.

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