Tips for effective headset communication for referees

The importance of effective headset communication for referees was made extra clear during a recent friendly. It was my first time ever with headsets. In the beginning I had to get used to it, but in the end it went well. This blog gives you some tips to keep your headset communication effective.

Jan with effective headset communication

In The Netherlands lots of games are officiated with club assistant referees. That makes them not suitable for intensive communication, because they are not neutral. This time, however, is different. It is a friendly game and my center referee has headsets. She and the other assistant referee use them more often. Before the game they give me some tips, but  it is difficult in the beginning.

Althought I make the right calls, I realise my sentences are a bit too long. “That ball has crossed the line”. Or: “I can’t see who deserves the throw-in.” Why not say the word “out” in the first example? When it’s not sure who has to throw, there are more and shorter options. Say things like “You, Who? or help”. Despite some agreements before the game, I had to get used to it. That grows. The second half is easier and I notice less or no odd phrases.

The advantages of headsets

  • Better and easier to communicate with assistants with controversial decisions
  • Quicker decision-making
  • Better team work
  • There’s always an option to get advice

Headsets for referees

Tips for effective headset communication

But this first time got me thinking about effective headset communication and here are some clear tips for you.

  1. Keep it short. The less you say, the better you can communicate.
  2. Make agreements before the game about words you’ll use. Which word will you use when you don’t know? Try to avoid different phrases to tell the same. Repetition of the same phrases goes better than using different words with the same meaning.
  3. Ask and give confirmation. It gives a strong feeling if you can confirm a call by the referee. But make sure how you communicate it. With background noise or more people talking, you might miss something. Saying “no foul” is gets a different meaning if the “no” doesn’t come trough. Be smart and say “go on” or “well done”.
  4. Be precise. Saying just the fact that a player fouls his opponent is not enough. “Foul” is not specific enough. Mention who the offender is. Or if two players run after a long ball and one of them was in offside position. A headset gives assistant referees the option to inform the referee about this. Then he or she knows when play has to stop and the flag signal for offside doesn’t come as a surprise then.
  5. Keep talking and communicating. Don’t mention unnecessary things, but what if a player blocks your view. On my blog is a case study with Bjorn Kuipers about this subject. “You can think that you are the referee who has to make the decisions”, says Björn. “I’m close to the situation, why are they talking to me via their headsets. But as referee you should take into account that it’s a possibility that someone suddenly blocks your view.” So keep in contact. If you constantly give advice, you’ll be more alert. A request for information willl not come as a surprise. Check the case study with Bjorn Kuipers.

What are your experiences with headsets? What tips and suggestions do you have for others? Share them, because it will help others!

Improving the Laws of the Game

Improving the Laws of the Game is can be great for football, but is always part of a public debate. Even referees don’t want the rules to change every season, which makes it sometimes more difficult to explain during football games. But I favour new experiments that make football quicker, more attractive and more fair.

That’s what De Correspondent, Voetbal in de Bollenstreek and Voetblah try to do with the Avant Garde Cup. I visited the experiment on November 11th where they tried to introduce new rules. The game was officiated by former Eredivisie referee Pieter Vink.

The ideas for improving the Laws of the Game:

  • the self-pass
  • the kick-in (instead of throw-in)
  • The alternative for the rules for penalty kicks

Below you’ll find more about these changes. Please comment below what your thoughts are or if you have new ideas.

Logo of the Avant Garde Cup 2.0

Logo of the Avant Garde Cup 2.0

1. The self-pass

The idea is that players are allowed to take every free kick immediately after the referee has whistled. The goal is to speed things up in the game, because waiting for a signal to start takes time. This new rule will give an advantage to the attacking team, which seems fair. My question is if this will help teams regain the option of a promising attack (that is stopped after a tactical foul for example)? But what does happen if you want to show a player a yellow or red card?

I also see a huge advantage for referees here, because players will have less time to moan about your decisions. They simply have to run back and defend and don’t have time to talk to you. That’s also how it works during the test match. In the first half players comment on a decision by Pieter Vink, but an opponent quickly dribbles the ball forward. Three defenders lost with some smart thinking.

Maurits Hendriks, who invented the self-pass in hockey, will be present as well during the game. It’s also a point of discussion for the next IFAB meetings.

Marco van Basten, FIFA Chief Officer for Technical Development, is also available and he is happy with this initiative. “Football is a conservative sport, but things are going the right way now”, he says to Dutch Referee Blog. “These innovations are good, it’s important for the game to test new things. To implement it in the football rules it can take up to two years, because IFAB thoroughly tests new things.” He notices that the game goes quicker. “We are used to players who will stand in front of the ball. Before that behavier is gone, it takes a while.”

Marco van Basten and me.

Marco van Basten and me.

YOUR INPUT NEEDED: What are your pro’s and cons for a self-pass? Share them below. I am working on more stories on Law changes and want to map out these three proposed changes more thorouhly. You can also e-mail on

2. The kick-in (instead of throw-in) 

Throw-ins happen a lot, but are not always very useful for the attacking team. The idea is that a kick-in will give more advantages towards the attacking teams. Because it gives them more options to pass it forward to a teammate. Throw-ins are easier to defend, which leads to losing the ball.

Although kicks give players more options, especially now they can actually dribble-in, players need to get used to this. At the first few kicks kicks are long. These are more difficult to defend than throws, but balls are not optimally used. In the beginning team-mates coach a lot. “You can dribble the bal in.” That helps. Even the goalkeeper starts dribbling the goal-kick in.

The best advantage of this new technique is shown during a corner kick. Dribbling the ball in gives the advantage that you can restart before the team has ten defenders in their box. That leads to a good goal.

3. The alternative penalty kick rule

A lot of things happen in the box, but not every foul is punished. Take a look at corner kicks or free kicks that swing in. Lots of holding, pushing, but as referee you can’t whistle for every foul.

Or can you?

The organisation of this game has an interesting proposal. A penalty kick will only be awarded if an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is denied. This can be in the penalty area, but also outside it. DOGSO lead to a penalty kick. Unfortunately nothing like this happened during the game, but below you’ll get an idea what it looks like.

But what to do with other foulse in the box? If you can give a normal free kick for such fouls, the organisation expects the number of penalty kicks will decrease. The expecatation: less small fouls on attackers, because the idea is that a referee will whistle quicker if he doesn’t have to give a penalty kick. And another expectation: the end of diving. Because the award will not be a penalty kick, but a normal free kick. If the reward is not that high, the organisation hopes this helps to ban it out.

Full explanation in Dutch about the proposed law changes.

Share your ideas

What are your pro’s and cons of these LOTG changess? Share them below or e-mail on I am working on more stories on law changes and want to map out these three proposed changes more thorouhly.

If you have other ideas, please let me know as well.

Core stability exercises for referees

Core stability exercises are also part of referee training. Actually, according to FIFA’s medical experts it’s one of the key elements of injury prevention. And if you look at weekly training plans for UEFA referees, they’ll practice 15 minutes of core stability twice per week. But how to train the core stability? In this blog post you’ll get some examples that will help you.

Your core muscles are in your trunk (abdominals and back extensors) and also in the pelvic-hip region. If you improve these muscles, the functioning of your arms and legs gets better. As a result, it helps with injury prevention.

But come on, what are we actually training then?

If you want to get an idea which muscles you train, check out this technique. I got it from a previous fitness guide from The FA. “Lay on your back, place your fingers on the bony points of your hips, now move them 2-3 cm’s inwards and now cough. The muscle you should be feeling contract is the Transversus Abdominus. This muscle is thought to play a major part in core stability.”

I usually practice at home with a yoga mat from mrs. DutchReferee. Below you’ll find the explanation.

Core stability excercises referees

Excamples of core stability exercises

Okay, some action now. I personally love the ‘bird dog’ a.k.a. the ‘superman’. What?  Yeah, crazy names sometimes, but it’s easy and you will benefit from it.

The FA explains it:

  • Start with on all fours with the hands below the
    shoulders and knees below the hips.
  • Set your back into neutral and brace your abs slightly, by pulling you navel towards your spine, whilst maintaining a natural breathing rhythm.
  • Slowly slide back one leg and slide forward the opposite arm (ensure that the back does not bend, and that the shoulders and pelvis do not tilt sideways.
  • Hold, increasing the duration up to a maximum of 20 seconds.
  • Slowly bring your leg and arm back and swap sides.
  • Perform sets of 5-10, alternating sides after each hold

Disciplinary action before game started: red card for Evra

Referee Tamás Bognár had to take disciplinary action before the game even started. In the Europa League match between Vitória SC – Olympique de Marseille Patrice Evra was reacting to angry fans. In the video you can see him kicking a fan in his face. But unfortunately the refereeing crew from Hungary saw the incident and red-carded him.

Did you know a player can be sent-off even during the warming-up? Check the video first and then read the explanation below.

Journalist Karim Attab filmed the scenes.

And a clearer image from the incident

Laws of the Game explanation

The Laws of the Game are very clear about this. You can check it out on page 60. “The has the authority to take disciplinary action from entering the field of play for the pre-match inspection until leaving the field of play after the match ends (including kicks from the penalty mark). If, before entering the field of play at the start of the match, a player commits a sending-off offence, the referee has the authority to prevent the player taking part in the match (see Law 3.6); the referee will report any other misconduct

How to handle? 11 vs 11 or not?

Yes, both teams can start with 11 players.

The Laws of the Game (page 48) are clear again. A replacement for Evra can start the game, because the incident happens before the kick-off.

In this case we don’t know if the team list was already submitted, but probably it was in a CL game. At our own levels the admin might come in a bit late 😉

The LOTG say: “A player who is sent off before submission of the team list can not be named on the team list in any capacity.”

And also: A player who is sent off after being named on the team list and before kick-off may be replaced by a named substitute, who can not be replaced; the number of substitutions the team can make is not reduced.”

Uefa started disciplinary action proceedings

British newspaper The Guardian mentions that Uefa started disciplinary action proceedings. Click the image to read their article.

Disciplinary action against Evra by The Guardian

Disciplinary action against Evra by The Guardian