Blog,  Jan's referee stories in The Hague area

Call off if you’r not fit enough to referee

Ever had to ask yourself the question: am I fit enough to referee a sports game? This week that question buzzed in my head. I was not sick enough to stay in bed the whole day. I could even work with a few painkillers. Yes, lots of sneezing and coughing.

It all started last Saturday in my warming-up as referee of an u15 game. The teams were doing their warming-up on another field than we should play on. I walked there, talked to the coaches about the shirt colours and then wanted to check the goal nets on the actual match field. I needed to walk underneath some ads that were placed there.

The ads behind the fans in the photo below are an example of that. The photo is made during a game earlier this season at a different location, but you’ll get the idea. The problem in the situation last weekend was that there was apparently an option for an extra row of ad boards. The boards were not there yet, but there was a horizontal metal pole where the board could be attached on. I did not see it an ran into the metal pole.

Me during a football game.

There was lots of blood, but after 10 minutes the blood flow was staunched and I could start the match right in time. I had no problems during the game. The nose got a little thick when I was back home, but as long as I did not touch it, I had no problems at all. The problems started later that week when I needed to sneeze a lot and I can tell you that’s quite painfull when your nose still hurts.

Painkillers help something, but the biggest issue is that you’re not fully concentrated and I am not physically fit. I can’t get focussed and will run out of breath after few sprints. Then I decided to call off for my game, so the FA can arrange another person to replace.

The players deserve a person that is fit enough to referee their game. And that was not me.

Have you ever called off a game because you did not feel 100% well? Or have you ever got problems during a game because you went out to officiate a game but were not fully concentrated and you lost control? Please share your experiences, so we could learn from it.


  • Jason

    Problem is, there are always conflicting concerns. I’ve often refereed games when I’ve been unwell – either illness or injury – but at grassroots, for instance, I knew if I didn’t turn up, it’d just be a club ref. So I figured even in my state I would be a preferable option (though it’s funny how players often act completely different when there’s a club ref).

    Sometimes the game went well, sometimes it didn’t. I couldn’t say that being unfit caused any particular problems, but there’s always the potential to, especially if it’s a fast and fiery match (at least, none of those games stand out in my memory of my ‘worst games’…well, there was one where I knew my focus was off due to the pain from a calf injury). Even at the local games where I knew they’d reappoint a referee, I’d consider the problems it would raise for the assignor. I’d be more likely to call off a game due to injury than illness, because I know if I stress the injury I’ll be out for longer.
    I did have to leave during a match as AR once due to dehydration/heat exhaustion, and another time due to injury. I have, on several occasions, suffered injury as the referee and been forced to walk/hop for the rest of the match as I had no AR. I’d say it just gave me a good incentive to pre-empt play better! I had another instance where I was referee but had an injury, so I swapped with my AR. Unfortunately this particular case did cause problems due to his lack of experience at that level, poor guy.
    All I can suggest is, try to give the FA as much notice as possible if you honestly think you may have to pull out. So you may have to make that decision earlier than you’d like to.

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      A very good point Jason.

      For many refs the possibility of having an assessor while (little bit) injured is a reason to call off a game. They don’t want to get a bad mark because they can’t get their normal fitness level.

      In one of my recent games I had to switch with the referee (I was AR1), because his hamstrings hurt. He then became the assistant. Felt kind of strang to be the center ref then in the first minutes.

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