Ball over the goal line or not? Situation from my game

Was the ball over the goal line or not? That’s always the most important question during a football game. Especially when it has a huge impact on the result of the game or when a lot is at stake for both teams. That’s what I experienced myself during a recent match.

Firstly, decide for yourself: has this ball crossed the line or not?

Ball over the goal line?

Did you made up your mind? How sure are you about the call? I would love to know what your opinion is on the situation, so please reply below.

Now back to the match situation. It was a game between two teams that could gain a spot in the promotion play-offs. Both teams hoped to win, but they would have to work hard for that. The score was already 0-1 and I kept up with play quite well. At the moment of this situation I was at the edge of the penalty area. The assistant referee was a member of the defending team, which usually will not lead to a signal for a goal in such situations.

You need to be 100% sure

Will it be 0-2 or remain 0-1? The ball is kicked away by the defender.  It touches the bar and bounces back onto the field of play.

That’s the moment you have to make the call.

And I decide to NOT call the goal. However it is a close call, you don’t have a view that is good enough. As center referee you don’t have proper view on this, even if you’re positioned just in the box. This situation is not clear enough for me.

And you need to be 100% sure.

No moaning from the players

At this point the team was already in the lead. And less than 10 seconds later the ball enters the goal, no doubt about that one. As referee you’re not favouring one of the teams, but I can tell you that goal helps you. The team is satisfied because they have scored a goal, which means they’ll celebrate and not moan at you.

Tips for game management

But what if the team didn’t score a goal immediately? After the game they might have understood that you were close, but it was too difficult to make that call. But during the game emotion will take over. How would you manage a situation like that? 2 very important tips to manage these situations:

  • No matter what: Keep calm. It will get worse if you react emotionally too.
  • Don’t tolerate dissent. If you let things go, it might get worse. Make sure that they have crossed a line with a verbal warning or by showing acard.

Share your tip to manage dissent

Thanks to Alex Fletcher for feedback on my weekly quizzes

Thousands of quiz forms were completed during the season. However there is a summer break now, I’ll be back in September with some new quizzes. But I didn’t do all these quizzes by myself. I made the questions, but I sometimes ticked a wrong answer box, used odd terms in the answers or the explanations weren’t designed correctly.

But that’s something you didn’t notice. Thanks to Alex Fletcher from Canada. He checked all my quizzes and notified my if there was a (minor) mistake. Not once. Every week. Thanks, Alex, much appreciated!

Alex Fletcher

Don’t miss out in September

For who doesn’t want to miss the start of the quiz season in September, please subscribe for an e-mail notification below.

Send me an e-mail when the first quiz of the 2017-2018 season will be posted on

* indicates required

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.”

Referee kits 2018 World Cup revealed

Great news: Referee kits 2018 World Cup revealed. Not by Adidas yet, but ‏@hendocfc on Twitter found the pictures online. Referees will wear the new referee kits during the World Cup in Russia. Referees from countries sponsored by Adidas will also wear them during the 2018-2019 season.

The pictures I found online are blue, yellow and red. “There’s two more colours of which there are no pictures yet: a black and a flashy green one.”

Pictures referee kits 2018 World Cup

Referee kits 2018 World Cup

What are your thoughts on the new referee kits?

Week 39 Laws of the Game Quiz

The final quiz of the 2016-2017 season. Week 39 is the last quiz of this year. I hope you can score a 5 out of 5 score. And to make sure you won’t miss the start of the new quiz season, you can leave your e-mail address via the form below.

You’ll only receive 1 e-mail as soon as the first quiz has been published. No newsletter, no other mails. Just 1 e-mail in September as a kind reminder the quiz season has started.

Send me an e-mail when the first quiz of the 2017-2018 season will be posted on

* indicates required

Laws of the Game Quiz 39

Send me an e-mail when the first quiz of the 2017-2018 season will be posted on

* indicates required


Terms and conditions

Please find the Terms and Conditions plus links to previous quizzes on the Quiz Page.

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 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.