Pieter Vink: “Looking back on a fantastic career as referee”

Pieter Vink’s alarm goes every morning at 5.30. Waking up, making sandwiches for lunch and off to work. The former top referee unfortunately had to quit his “wonderful career as pro referee”. During the first years of his refereein career he still worked as police officer, but the last ten years refereeing was is fulltime job. “If it rained in the morning, I could stay in bed a little longer and train later during the day”, he says during a meeting at the referee association COVS Leiden. “I can’t do that anymore. Nowadays, I’m a civil servant now, working in the municipal enforcement and supervision department as a coordinator.” He also appears as tv pundit on Ziggo Sport.

Pieter Vink gets certificate at COVS Leiden

Pieter Vink (right) gets certificate at COVS Leiden

The top referee looks back very positively on his career. “I don’t think I made the most of it, but I had a very nice career.” He climbed the international refereeing ranks very quickly. The Dutch ref goes from group 3 to Elite in only one and a half year. He is referee at the 2008 European Championships. He also officiates CL quarter finals like Juventus vs Real Madrid and Arsenal vs Liverpool. Adriaan Inia and Hans ten Hoove are part of his refereeing team. Two guys who have become friends for life. “A fantastic time. I’ve seen wonderful places. I visited all countries in Europe and was also active outside Europe. I even officiated the intense derby between Steau and Dinamo Bucharest.”

Most successful referee of Leiden RA

Back to the start. When Vink is sixteen he becomes a referee and he is now a member of Leiden RA for 34 years. During the meeting he gets a certificate, because he ended his professional career. Chairman Jan de Jong gives Vink a gift as “most successful referee of the Leiden referee association”.

Vink looks back on his career during the evening He thinks he would never reach the top level in the present time, because the selection process is different. “I’ve never been a runner and at amateur level I failed the fitness test. Nowadays, focus is on the physical part of refereeing. European referee boss Colina is a top athlete. Because he is, he expects the same from his pupils. Maybe we carry it on too far. You’ll see more and more ideal sons-in-law, fewer leaders. René Temmink, Mario van der Ende and me. We were more leaders than runners on the pitch.”

Selfie with Pieter Vink

Selfie with Pieter Vink

The referee from Noordwijk also prepares differently for his games than some of his colleagues. He knows the most important things, but doesn’t want to know everything. “That a player always turns to his left is not relevant for me. When I am on the pitch, I will notice what he does. I’ll use my senses. When I was at the top of the amateur level, I even weighed far above hundred kilograms. Then it’s important you can read the game.”

Comeback after an injury

On March 8th 2015, Vink officiated the game Feyenoord – NAC, but then disaster strikes. A hamstring injury. After a long rehabilitation process Vink is back on the football pitch on April 1st 2016. More than a year later, but he is back. On the KNVB website he says: “I was looking forward to this moment. The first whistle will be very special when I have entered the pitch”. His performance is good. “During the game I spot a red card from a different angle”, he says. A nice comeback. “After that I whistled then more games and even some beautiful ones, like the play-off final for an Europa League place.”

Unfortunately he pulls his hamstring again during a fitness test. On July 29th is his farewell game between Feyenoord and Real Sociedad, but he has to call it off due to his injury. “Feyenoord stadium De Kuip has always been the most beautiful one to whistle at. The atmosphere, the experience.” It does not influence his performance. “On that level it doesn’t matter, because otherwise you will not make it to the top as referee.”

Want to know what you can learn from Vink’s comeback? Check my previous blog with 3 important lessons when you get injured.

Comeback of Pieter Vink

Pieter Vink’s future

A role as video referee suits him and he loves it. It’s a project he has been involved in for years. He was the referee behind the screens during the first live test of the video referee in the game between Feyenoord and sc Heerenveen. With the current KNVB policies he will not become a video referee in The Netherlands. But he does not rule out a comeback in the world of football. “I think I can be important for referees or maybe at a club. Because of the many years of experiences I can be very valuable. But a challenging job at the local government or in politics is also an option.”

It is unlikely we will see Pieter make a return to the field of play, at grassroots level or otherwise. “And definitely not as a referee. I’d just be afraid I’d turn into a caricature of myself, behave like a cock of the walk. Time to call it a day. I had a wonderful career.”

PS: Want to know what you can learn from Vink’s comeback? Check my previous blog with 3 important lessons when you get injured.

 

Mika Lamppu: learning a lot from other refs during u17 tournament

Mika Lamppu from Finland gets appointed for the u17 European Championship in 2017, but has never worked with the center referee before. He shares his experiences of the tournament and how important it is to build a relation with referees outside the games while abroad for a tournament. “Without chemistry the team can’t work to it’s full potential.”

Mika, congratulations with your appointment for the u17 European Championship earlier this year. How did you experience the tournament?
Mika Lamppu: “The tournament was a great experience. It seems to be true that final tournaments have their own atmosphere. It’s a big stage for the players and the teams are playing for the trophy. Especially, in the beginning you could see players being nervous, but the same time giving the best they got – all the time.”

Assistant referee Mika Lamppu. Photo by: Olli Jantunen.

Assistant referee Mika Lamppu. Photo by: Olli Jantunen.

“I think it was the same for us, the referees, even though we were all much older than the players. It took the first match to get over the nervousness. After that you get used to everything going around you and you can prepare for the upcoming days and matches with ease. Like for the players, every match was important to us.”

Sharing experiences

A few Finnish colleagues went to this tournament as well. 2007 assistant-referee Jan-Peter Aravirta, 2009 assistant-referee Jonas Turunen, 2010 referee Antti Munukka, 2012 referee Mattias Gestranius, 2015 assistant referee Ville Koskiniemi and 2016 referee Ville Nevalainen. Did you talk with them about the preparation for such a final stage tournament? 
Mika Lamppu: “I exchanged some words with all of them before and during the tournament. The best tips came from the duo of the veteran assistant referees, Mr Turunen and Aravirta, who told me to be myself. No magic tricks were needed – I only had to do the same performance that I’ve done so many times in Finland. I found it very important to have the opportunity to keep in touch with the guys during the three weeks and share my feelings to them. It helped me a lot.”

You got appointed for the final of the tournament between Spain and England. What does a day of a tournament final look like for referees?
Mika Lamppu: “In the end, the day of the tournament final doesn’t differ much from the normal matches. You do the physical training a day before, you have your pre-match discussion and a lunch with your team on the match day. Of course you need to concentrate on the match. Still, the day before the kick-off is quite long, so you want to have a short stroll outside or do something that gives you something else to think about. It keeps you fresh and the extra tension – that comes from the upcoming match – stays at bay. The biggest difference between other matches is the hype going around the stadium.”

Learning from other referees

In the final you worked with Jens Maae (Denmark) and Aleksey Vorontsov (Russia), but you were not a trio the whole time during the tournament. How is it to cooperate with officials from different countries? 
Mika Lamppu: “The fact that every referee came from a different country brought us challenges during the tournament. The communication between the referee team members during the match has to be simple. We also need to discuss it thoroughly in the pre-match briefing. Also, refereeing is a bit different in every country which made us to give attention even to little details.

“But in the end, without chemistry the team can’t work with their full potential. As a assistant, you need to be aware what kind of persons the others are and what they think about football. During the tournament you needed to build the chemistry also outside the field of play and the formal daily schedule. For example, the final was my first match with mr. Maae, but we managed to build a good cooperation thanks to spending much time together during the weeks.”

Games with refs you don’t know

Refereeing with people from different countries probably gives you nice insights in their way of preparing and officiating. What are the best things you learned from them?
Mika Lamppu: “Getting prepared for the matches with unknown referees reminded me how crucial it is to an assistant referee to be on the field of play for the referee and manage the match the way he wants. There’s no place for going solo for the assistant referee. Of course you need to concentrate on your own performance too, but the aim is to succeed as a team, and the first step towards that aim is to help the referee to have a great match. This reminder was the best thing every referee thought me in the tournament.

“I tried to learn from the little things the referees did before the matches. I tried to study the nuances of the Cypriot and Greek music in the locker room. It was also interesting to see how many cups of tea the Welsh need before the match during the day. The number seems to vary between 9 and 13.”

Back to the start of your career. How did you start as referee? 
Mika Lamppu: “I started refereeing in 2001 when I was thirteen years old. My dad – who was a 2nd division referee when he retired – got me into refereeing. I had already been playing football for years so it was quite natural to start this hobby. Back then I lived in a small town where referees were needed, so I got lots of matches under my belt every year. That way I got also pocket money. I guess that’s a common reason why young girls and boys start refereeing.”

Concentrate on refereeing

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?
Mika Lamppu: “Actually I’ve never even thought about quitting this hobby. After I had decided to stop playing football and concentrate on refereeing (I was 20 back then), I’ve been fully committed to being a better referee and make a career out of it. I just love to be part of the sport and the matches.”

What’s the hardest challenge/problem during your career?
Mika Lamppu: “I don’t know if it’s the hardest, but it’s sure one I remember. In my very early career as an assistant referee I tried also to develop as a referee. It took me a one full year to realize that my personality fits much better to be an assistant than a referee. It was hard to accept at first, but realizing that has definitely made me a better assistant referee.”

Mika Lamppu’s CL debut

You were a match official in the game between Víkungur and FH Hafnarfjörður in the Champions League qualifiers in the 2017 summer. How was your debut in that tournament?
Mika Lamppu: “I took the match as an any other match I’ve had since I got my FIFA badge. I found the atmosphere in the stadium nice, though. It was obvious, that the match was important for the people who live on that island. Also, the visiting team coming from Iceland gave a twist for the match.”

What do you expect for the rest of this season?
Mika Lamppu: “I know I’m still very young as an assistant referee. I don’t want to try to take too big steps at a time. I really don’t have a hurry getting to bigger matches. My expectations for the rest of the season are to improve as an assistant referee and keep building a trustworthy relationship with my referees. The thing is to be patient.”

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee?
Mika Lamppu: “Be courageous, be confident and stay calm.”

 

Ieva Ramanauskienė about the biggest challenge in her career

Ieva Ramanauskienė was one of the assistant referees during the final at 2017’s Uefa Women’s u17 final tournament. That was about one year after she gave birth do her daughter. The biggest challenge in her career was her pregnancy and coming back top fit. She talks about her final tournament in 2017 and the challenges in her career in an interview on Dutch Referee Blog.

Ieva Ramanauskiene (assistant referee on right) at Women's Euro under 17 final

A great feeling for an AR

You’ve been appointed for Uefa’s Women u17 final tournament in 2017. How important is that for you?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “I am assistant referee from Vilnius. I participate in our country’s second men’s league mostly. Here we don’t have high-level women’s football, but from time to time I have some women/girls matches too. I am on the Fifa list from 2015 and started as referee in 2012. I can’t understand (and believe!) that I could referee in final tournament in such a short time. It’s an amazing feeling, it’s a big responsibility and experience.”

How do you prepare for final tournaments like this?

Ieva Ramanauskienė: “At the end of April in 2016 our our daughter is born. One week after that I started to get back to my earlier physical condition. I lost 15 kilos! It was really hard to to run, to sprint, everything. But day by day I became stronger. After two months I had my first international tournament. Later that year, two more. Usually in Lithuania we have two fitness tests per year. After my daughters birth I had seven in  thirteen months! So that means automatically concentrating all the time on being as active as possible as my little baby let me. And I didn’t have any system of training. I trained in those days when I had slept well.”

Assistant refereee Ieva Ramanauskine

Ieva Ramanauskine going to the final

During the tournament you got appointed 5 games, including the final between Germany and Spain. Congratulations! How did you experience the tournament?

Ieva Ramanauskienė: “Thank you! My first and the last match was Germany against Spain. And it were both different matches for me, as assistant referee, of course for the teams and even for spectators. The tournament went very well. Our referees group, our physical trainers and other stuff were really great. With some of them I have spent seventeen days. We had training sessions every day, we had meetings , we discussed about rules, about life, about everything. It was really amazing time with great people in such a big football event. ”

On the Uefa website, Julia-Stefanie Baier, who officiated the final says: “At the moment, what matters to me is that I am gaining experience internationally as a referee, step by step, progressing and establishing myself.” And she also talks about the important role national associations have in helping their referees. How important is the Lithuanian Football Association for you?

Ieva Ramanauskienė: “Lithuanian football referees association supports me. I can call them any moment and ask about anything. After my baby’s birth they gave me the opportunity to come back to refereeing very soon. They always solve any problem. Lithuanian referees also have a fitness coach. He shares a lot of useful information with us and prepares our training programmes. We have a lot of possibilities, but of course you need to put in your own hard work, a lot of training. We need to improve our lowest skills by ourselves. If you really want – there is nothing impossible.”

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by V. Knyzelis.

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by V. Knyzelis.

During the tournament in the Czech Republic you’ve talked with many colleagues. How is refereeing in your country compared to other countries?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “The colleagues I met in the tournament are very good. It’s a pleasure to be with people who know where they are and for what reason. They are refereeing for many years, usually in women’s leagues and in third or fourth men’s league. For example, Portugal, Italy are football countries. There they all play football and of course the level of it is higher than in Lithuania. In these countries, female referees have advantage because of refereeing higher level women matches. In Lithuania mostly Fifa referees get appointments for men’s matches. From the other point of view – it is also advantage. So, every country has something better and something to improve.”

Eye laser correction for referee career

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “I was a football player before I started as a referee. Football was everywhere and all the time in my life. I like watching, playing and now refereeing. One male referee said: ‘Ieva, you are always on or near the pitch, you need to try refereeing’. My first  course was in 2012. But I was still playing, so it was difficult to choose to be a referee or player. Then I chose playing.”

“But in 2014, after I finished university and found a job, I decided to start refereeing seriously. I and liked it! In 2015 I already was on Fifa list and it was a big stimulation to train and learn more and more. And it was the reason of my eyes laser correction. I hadn’t good sight from childhood, so it was a very important decision for me.”

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by Ieva Markunaite

Ieva Ramanauskine on the line. Photo by Ieva Markunaite

What do you like about refereeing so much?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “I work in the police system. I like discipline, rules and laws. And I like football. Football is always different. I admire this ‘mix’ me a lot.”

Pregnancy – her hardest challenge so far

What’s the hardest personal challenge/problem you faced during your career? And how did you solve it?
Ieva Ramanauskienė: “The biggest challenge was pregnancy. I was refereeing till four months of pregnancy in local matches and in third month of pregnancy I was in a tournament abroad. It was interesting period of my life. After my daughter’s birth it was also difficult, but this time because of my physical condition. Later on it was difficult to leave my daughter and go to the tournaments. I was breastfeeding till she was 1 year old, till this final tournament. When my daughter was six months I was in a qualification round in Montenegro, and I needed to work there while continuing breastfeeding. It was hard, but it was worth it. It’s just a life. Sometimes you just need to choose and accept a situation.”

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee

  1. You need to improve by yourself. Other people can help, but they don’t do your job.
  2. Be better than you were yesterday – both as referee and as person.
  3. Believe in yourself. Humans can make a miracle come true.

Donatas Rumšas changes jobs to get more time for refereeing

2017 is a great year for Donatas Rumšas so far. The Lithuanian referee gets great news earlier this year. He will go to the u17 European Championships in Croatia. “For me it was a big suprise to be selected”. Donatas Rumšas shares his experiences from this tournament. Plus he also talks about something that possibly is the best step in his refereeing career. He changes his job to have more time available for refereeing.

Congratulations with your appointment for the u17 European Championship earlier this year. How did you experience the tournament?

The impressions from the tournament was very good. We spent there  almost 3 weeks with the referees from all over the Europe. There we had a lot of training sessions, matches to referee and game analysis. It was very nice to share experiences with colleagues from other countries. I can say that those three weeks gave me a lot of as referee and as a person. It was a busy month but I enjoyed the time in Croatia.

Every referee can improve

What did you do to reach the tournament?

To be honest what I did exactly to get there I don’t know.  I had a quite good season before the tournament and I got an invitation for the U-17 final tournament in Croatia. For me it was a big suprise. I did not expect this appointment. I train 5-6 times per week. There are a lot of things to improve for every referee, but now I focus on management of players. And I also work on my personality.

Referee Donatas Rumšas

Referee Donatas Rumšas. Photo provided by referee.

You’ve officiated 4 games, including a quarter final. You’ve worked with assistant referees from Northern Ireland, Russia, Armenia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Wales, Kazakhstan and Israel. How is it to work with a different team for all matches? 

It was very interesting experience for me, because in Lithuania I used to work with more or less the same assistants. In this tournament all the referees and assistant referees have a lot of expierence, so to work with them was a pleasure for me. I have prepared the standard pre-match discussion for this tournament. In this talk are all the main things what I expect from my team.

Refereeing with people from different countries probably gives you nice insights in their way of preparing and officiating. What are the best things you learned from them?

For me the best thing was that I had an opportunity to see how different referees prepare for the game. I found how accurately they are assessing their games, so I will try to implement this component for myself.

How Donatas Rumšas became a referee

Back to the start of your career. How did you get involved in refereeing? 

I started to referee in 2006. I was playing in local city youth team and my coach asked me if I want to try to referee few games. From the first game I like it and till now I am enjoying refereeing very much.

What do you like about refereeing so much and have you ever thought of quitting this hobby?

I like refereeing so much because every game is a different. You never know what will happen in your next match and you have to try to do the best you can. Till now I have never thought about quitting refereeing.

Get more time for refereeing

What’s the hardest challenge/problem you faced during your career? And how did you solve it?

The hardest problem for me was to synchronize the job and the refereeing about five years ago. I had to work long hours in that job and quality of refereeing started to decrease. So I left from that job and found another one, which let me spend more time for refereeing.

You’re already in the middle of the season. Is that an advantage for you now the Europa League starts again? (and how difficult is it to referee a game when there’s no season in your country?)

I think it is a great advantage for us because we have a lot of games and we are prepared well. But it is also a disadvantage for the second part of the Europe’s season because we are at the preparation stage at that time. So it is very hard to referee.

What do you expect for the rest of this season? 

This year is also quite good for me, so it would be very nice to keep the high level of refereeing till the end of the season. I am working day by day to be better than I was yesterday and I think there is no soldier who don’t want to be a general.

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee

  1. Believe in yourself – you are a good referee;
  2. Work hard – that is necessary to achieve your goals;
  3. Be patient – nothing happens in one day.

Sohail Asghar: “As referee I benefit from being a coach as well”

Sohail Asghar is a 21-year-old referee. He has been refereeing since 2011-12 and will start his 7th season as a match official after this summer. He’ll not only talk about his refereeing experience, but also how being a football coach helps him as a referee.

How did you get involved in refereeing? 

Sohail Asghar: “I got into refereeing through a youth club I used to volunteer at. At the time we was organising a local football tournament and the manager of the youth club put us through a referees course. I did the course as it was a free course. I enjoyed the course and then went on to buying a kit.”

Sohail Asghar

Refereeing on different time means different prep

Where do you officiate and what does your refereeing weekend usually look like?

“As a level 5 referee I currently referee in my county Lancashire, England. I referee on the West Lancashire Football League (WLFL) and the Blackburn Sunday League (BSL). My weekend normally consists of me either being assistant referee on the North West Counties Supply League (NWCSL) or refereeing on the (WLFL). I wake up in the morning have some breakfast and at 11am I prepare for my game which takes place in the afternoon. On Sundays the games on the BSL take place in the mornings so my preparation is different as I wake up at different times and eat differently.”

Do you go to a referee association or train for yourself?

“As I am part of my Counties Referees Development Group we have physical training which takes place for an hour and then 90 minutes of classroom training with referees who are at the same level as myself. Currently, my local RA’s do not run physical training sessions however, previously did. I attend Accrington and Blackburn referees society meetings each month.  I go to the gym five days a week and sometimes train myself at the local parl.”

Swimming and archery

In your Twitter bio you mention also archery leader and swimming instructor. How do these things relate to refereeing?

“I think these sports benefit me physically and mentally. Archery helps develop mental toughness and focus. Swimming has holistic benefits. I do these sports for fun and enjoyment as they are promoted by my religion alongside wrestling. They relate to refereeing by developing different skills which benefit me as a referee such as mental toughness in refereeing focusing for 90 minutes.

How coaching helps Sohail Asghar

You are a football coach too. How does that influence/help you as a referee?

“A coaching role in football benefits me by understanding how coaches and players feel when decisions are made for and against my team. It allows me to watch other referees and to learn from them. Being a coach gives me a different view of the game, because a coach is like a spectator watch from the side-lines so you are watching the game from a different position and sometimes see things differently.”

What do you tell the kids you coach that will help referees?

“I tell the kids that they need to show respect to the referee and anything they disagree with to either speak to me or the referee in a stoppage in play showing respect. I have told the players if the referee does not give us a free kick play on till the whistle is blown.”

Goals for the future

What are your refereeing goals for next year? And how are you going to achieve them?

Sohail Aghar’s goals as referee. “To say motivated. Refereeing on a consistent basis, getting fitter and hopefully that will lead to a promotion.”

What are the best 3 tips you ever got that made you a better referee

  • Be strong
  • Work hard
  • Make sure your administration is up to date (i.e. open dates and close dates)

Abuse towards referees – we need a cultural change

Abuse towards referees seems normal in football. The working environment of referees and the climate they operate in isn’t always looking bright. “And if people keep seeing abuse, nobody says: I want to referee”, says Dr Tom Webb, who started the Referee and Match Official Research Network in 2017 and has just published his book entitled ‘Elite Soccer Referees: Officiating in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A’, which you can get at Routledge. “Unfortunately there’s a trend that it’s okay to be abusive towards referees. We need a cultural change, but that can take decades.”

Webb had played to a good standard, but has never been a referee. He got involved with referee-related research when he did his Master’s degree at the University of Gloucestershire. Back in 2003 there was a huge problem with recruiting and retaining referees in England. In 2017 he started the Referee and Match Official Research Network to “bring together academics and others interested in the development and associated research concerning the match official within a variety of sports.” He wants to develop a greater understanding around how referees operate, what their experiences are and what the differences are between officiating in different countries and sports.

Abuse towards referees needs to stop. Respect badge!

Back in history

To get an idea of where the abuse comes from, you have to go back in time. In 1863 the Football Association was founded and the game became predominantly working-class over time. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) was formed in 1871 by middle- to upper-class people, “Therefore respect was maintained”, says Webb. “Football professionalised much earlier than rugby union too, because more money was involved in the game. Rugby was a long way behind.”

Verbal abuse seems acceptable

Although rugby is perceived as a sport with more respect, abuse towards referees is a growing issue, says Webb. “In football, just under 20% of the referees say they have been physically abused. In rugby that percentage gets nowhere near that. It’s just 3%.” But there’s a similar level of verbal abuse, like swearing at the ref. “Football players are more used to do it, but it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. Verbal abuse seems like something we accept. Although the Respect Programme by the FA had some success, we need a cultural change. And that takes a long time to take effect.”

Above: famous clip with rugby referee Nigel Owens where he explains a difference between rugby and soccer.

 

Volunteering as ref in pub leagues

Refereeing isn’t just about top level refereeing, don’t forget the pub leagues on Sunday. “That’s a whole different culture”, says Webb. “At a majority of the game referees get some expenses, but they’re basically volunteers. It’s very important to have a look at the working environment of referees there as well. It’s influenced by how we talk towards the referee. That’s actually one of the biggest issues there.”

Status quo in referee numbers

Webb says a similar number of referees that got recruited also quit. “They don’t want to be sworn at”. Earlier this year there was a huge strike amongst referees. “It’s sad it comes to that point. It’s a last resort. The refs don’t want to do that, they love refereeing.” A problem is, according to Webb, that referees feel disengaged in for example the Respect Programme or they don’t feel helped in the disciplinary process. It’s them versus players and lots of fans.

Difference between countries

Webb wants to know what’s the difference between refereeing is in different countries. For example, the way they officiate and prepare. If there’s a difference between games in their own country or in a Champions League game, do they get other directives or use different technology,  “There’s a lack of research on these topics, lots of subjects haven’t been covered yet.”

Arbitro Mateu Lahoz

Dealing with simulation is not the same in Europe

There’s a big difference in how players deal with players, says Webb. “Spanish and Italian referees often use more deterrents towards players. In England you’ll notice more talking.” Webb gives another example: simulation. “Players in southern-European countries are more likely to deceive the referee. In Spain or Italy players get applauded if they conned the referee. It’s the referee to blame that he didn’t spot it.

The working environment of refs

A few more differences that influence how referees (re)act and that create a positive or negative environment for match officials to act within. The role of the media is also not the same. “This can be shown with names like ‘the trial’ which focuses only on errors”, says Webb. “Some referees got the idea they can’t do anything right. They even prefer to referee in the Champions League and Europa League instead of in the domestic league.” And what about maintaining the quality of refs? “In England and Italy referees from all over the country meet every two weeks, but that’s less frequent in Spain. Does that influence the training quality?” That’s something Webb wants to compare and see what it means for refereeing.

Disrupting the flow of the game

And don’t forget the current ‘hot’ topic. How will technology influence the game? “Rugby is more stop-start, football is quicker”, says Webb.  Despite the cry for the use of technology getting louder, will the game benefit from the Video Assistant Referee? There’s much at stake in football. One goal can mean the difference between earning millions or nothing. “But using technology could also disrupt the flow of the game. That could be a problem.”

Refereeing in other sports

In recent research Webb didn’t only look at football, but also at four other sports:

  • Rugby
  • Cricket. “Historically that sport embraced technology the most. They have even chosen shorter formats due to technology for example.”
  • Squash. “Match officials are only involved if there’s a let situation, otherwise the players decide who wins the point”. That’s for example when a player thinks he is obstructed by his opponent so he wasn’t able to play a ball.
  • Ultimate Frisbee. “A sport officiated by the players”

“In the latter there’s a big problem while trying to professionalize the sport, especially in America”, says Webb. “It’s difficult to introduce referees on the pitch in a sport that’s normally officiated by the players.”

“And in all sports we see sportsmanship changes over time. Research shows refs notice less sportsmanship when a sport becomes more professionalized. Every path and game is important for players for their career. A bad decision can mean they become runners up or won’t earn a contract. That makes it inevitable that sportsmanship declines.”

Rugby referee

Sportsmanship is easier when winning

Going back to football. It’s very kind to kick the ball out when one of your opponents is down with an injury. “It actually happens more often than not”, says Webb. “But will they also do that 10 minutes before the end of the game? It all goes back to respect for the match official. The referees are there to uphold the Laws of the Game. But sportsmanship is easier when a team is winning or at the start of the game.”

The cultural change

The culture of a sport is difficult to change. “It takes effort and investment in time and money”, says Webb. “The Respect Program is not even 10 years old. It can take decades for the culture to change. I’d like to see respect woven into the fabric of the game.”

Damir Skomina: 3 tips from the Europa League final referee

Damir Skomina will officiate the Europa League final 2017 between Ajax and Manchester United. A big game for the Slovenian referee and his team. Make sure you make the most out of this story, where I share 3 take-aways from him that will help you as a referee too.

Damir Skomina

Photo’s in this post by Aleksandr Osipov – Creative Commons

In the interview met Uefa.com Damir Skomina shares some insights that are useful for all of us referees.

Focus on the game

“When I’m refereeing a match and I’m standing in the line [with the teams],” he adds, “I don’t think of anything else – I’m focusing on the match to come.” That’s what referees need to do. Don’t worry about the fans, the outcome of the game, problems at home or what else.

Focus is what you need, but how do you manage that. Check out these 7 tips to stay focused for 90 minutes.

Prepare yourself decently

Damir Skomina makes player analysis before the game. He knows who is playing, how they play and what the team tactics are. “If you prepare well like this,” he stresses, “you give yourself a better chance of being successful.”

And who doesn’t want to be successful as referee? You won’t be able to do a match analysis of all players and get to know all team tactics. But be prepared with facts about (just to name a few):

  •  the importance of the game
  • a previous result
  • the league table

Act like a team – always!

The Europa League Final is a big game for Damir Skomina and his team. They want to perform at their best, as will Ajax and Manchester United. “We are a team along with the two teams playing,” he emphasises in the interview with Uefa. “We will be encouraging each other, and giving each other the feeling ‘I’m there for you’ – and we will be doing our very best to succeed as a team in this important match.”

Great point there. Be there for someone. Support them and show to the crowd you trust each other.

Want to get any further with this? Check out this advice from FIFA referee Bjorn Kuipers on building trust.