‘99.9 percent of managers are well behaved’

“Personally I’d like to see the use of technology for goal line incidents only”, says Darren Handley, Footall League assistant referee.

Second part of the interview, written by Dave Humphreys. Read also the first part.

So, thinking about all the initiatives to try and improve refereeing standard, would you be in favour of video technology or the UEFA implemented additional assistants?

Photo by refworld.com

*Chuckles* “It’s a massive, massive topic; it’s in the media 24-7. It’s a huge, huge area, what’s black is black, what’s white is white and currently as we state. Personally I’d like to see the use of technology for goal line incidents only. The difficultly you have with video technology is once it’s implemented for goal line decisions, we’re all in the game for more goals and more adrenaline for the game, spectators thriving off goals.”

“The difficulty comes certainly in the Premier League and Football League, clubs and managers will expect and anticipate video tech to be used for offside decisions, for throw ins, free kicks and across the FOP and if we’re not careful we could find ourselves in a position where we are with Rugby where it’s stop start, stop start and that isn’t a game of football for me to referee, I wouldn’t like to be involved in games to be stop start, stop start, I much prefer the system as it is now where it’s free kick, give, go, game starts again.”

“I think as time goes by, who knows? The more debate and research that goes into the use of video technology, we certainly get a DVD after most games as a Referee and all key match incidents, for example penalty kicks, sending offs, goals scored are reviewed by the match assessor through the DVD, so that’s currently in operation at this moment in time across the network of referees down to level 2 – Conference.”

What do you make of the additional assistants? How would you feel if you got the call to go and stand on the touchline on a freezing cold ground in Burnley? What do you make of what UEFA have done with these additional assistants?

“Again, I think it’s an interesting way forward, certainly UEFA’s point of view for European games, we’re talking a worldwide audience that are watching those games and it adds to credibility of decisions and if we can use the extra officials that are available it can enhance major decisions within a penalty area where most of the action is seen.”

“In terms of myself going to a Football League game and being asked to stand behind a goal, if it helps and promotes the game in the Football League and supports a major decision, then yes I’d be more than willing to. However the cost implications are massive and we’re in a world recession and clubs cannot afford to putting in 6 officials on a match day, the Football League are just about coping to cover 4 officials on the day at the moment.”

Moving on, you mentioned the Football League, what are the managers really like? Are they really as much as a pain as they look when you’re watching matches on the TV?

“I think from a personal point of view, I haven’t had a problem, touch wood, with managers and I think 99.9% are well behaved and hold respect towards you. But as you know and I know, in football it can get heated, it might be a decision where a player has been sent off or a penalty appeal has gone against you, the managers do get frustrated. I think the issue has come, where the media jump on every single negative comment and are quick to highlight managers belittling officials and it sells newspapers, sells stories and it’s all the bigger picture for the TV and promote that because it gets more viewers for them.”

What have been your highlights as a Football League official?

“There’s been quite a few throughout my career. The one that stands to mind is my first Sky game as an Assistant Referee, to be involved in a Sky live game is a fantastic experience having never previously being involved in one and I was lucky enough to, in my second or third season, be involved in a live game.”

“The build up to a game, the anticipation, the Sky TV cameras are there, the kick off time changes to 5.15 or 12.45 and the whole euphoria being involved in Sky TV to a world audience does sort of like, make you think a little bit more and tune you in a little bit more knowing your little child is at home watching you on TV. As Referee in 2005 I was appointed to the English Schools FA International match, England v N. Ireland U-18s. This was a fantastic experience and to line up with the National Anthem being played out as the teams lined up was quite emotional for me.”

What’s the camaraderie like amongst a team of officials? I’ve seen the appointments on the website are you kept in teams to maintain that sense of a team or is it a case of familiarity breeds contempt?

“We do get the opportunity to work with most of the National List referees, the refs and assistants are appointed on Monday with a list of fixtures by email. We don’t work regularly in teams, certainly on the Football League, so there is a good variety. The assistant referees are regionalised from 100 miles from home, National list referees can travel the length and breadth of the country.”

‘Refereeing is becoming more and more demanding’

“Refereeing at high level is becoming more and more demanding”, says Darren Handley, Football League assistant referee.

Interview written by Dave Humphreys.

Darren, can you tell me how you got into refereeing and gone on to achieve your status as a Football League assistant referee?

Photo by refworld.com

“I started at the age of 14, I played local football for junior teams for my father, he was a referee, I struggled to play to a high level week in week out, he said why don’t you try refereeing? So I signed to do a couple of lines when he was refereeing. Then at the age of 14 I refereed my first ever game at under 10s level on a Saturday morning, from there I progressed through the local Sunday league football in Bolton, the Boys Federation which was a very strong league at that time.”

“Then at the age of 16 moved into open-age football, again in a local Sunday league and on Saturday afternoons as an assistant referee, where I obtained my level two status, the old class one – level 5. I was promoted to the West Lancashire League as a referee; I spent 5 years as a referee, obtained promotion to the North West counties panel of referees, where I spent 2 seasons as a referee before being promoted to the National List of Assistants. I then spent a further 2 seasons as a referee on the NW counties league and I was promoted to the Panel list of officials, which is the current level two and operates on a national level. It incorporates refereeing on the Barclays Premier League reserve games, Football League Pontins fixtures and the Blue Square Conference.”

So could you highlight to me what a day is like as part of a, Football League assistant referee, because you look at the players these days and they go through , the whole, they do it all through the week, the whole fitness and training then on match days, is it similar as part of a Football League officiating team?

“As an official, it is classed a hobby but its becoming more and more like a job, we certainly have more demands compared to 10 seasons ago. We train regular and have to download our data and send it into the sports scientists at the Football League on a fortnightly basis.”

“The training sessions we do are quite demanding, we are training in parallel with the professionals just not as many hours as the footballers are doing in preparation for match day on a Saturday, baring in mind some weeks it’s difficult because of mid week fixtures so we might only get the one training session as well as the fixture but the demands of the sessions and the time consumed, travelling to and from, fitting in with family time, it’s becoming more and more demanding. You need a number of key skills such as fitness, co-ordination, speed but most important you need to remain calm and focused when under pressure.”

Looking across the whole game, what is your view of the Respect campaign? Obviously it’s implemented by the FA nationally across the game, would you say it’s more so to appease the top level game rather than the lowers levels? I know in my experiences as a local parks referee in Liverpool you could almost say it doesn’t exist because we feel that just a rope, either side of a park doesn’t really stop angry people coming on, players approaching referees, getting in the faces of referees. What would your opinion be of the Respect campaign?

“I think the Respect campaign has had massive, massive impacts on not only the national game, but the local game. Personally, I’m not as involved in the local leagues as I’d like to be because of my position as a level 2 referee, but certainly going looking round at local parks games when I get an opportunity, players now seem to show more respect to some referees than they did 5 years ago and it does come from the attitude of some of the players at the higher levels.”

“The Premier League every week, through Sky, TV, radio, advocate the Respect campaign, the Referees do their upmost through handshakes before the game, meet and greet an hour before kick off with team sheets exchanged, again it’s handshakes all round, we try and promote as much as we can.”

“The only thing that’s difficult at local level is the handshake that signifies the Respect at the beginning of the game that the TV audience see, isn’t seen at local level. I personally think we should be trying to, through county FAs and the FA, try to promote clubs to do the handshake signals before the games. Some leagues do operate it, but it does come down to the actual league directive whether they wish to do it or not.”

Read the second part of the interview next monday on the Dutch Referee Blog.