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