Love Soccer? Become a Ref!


Keith Hackett is an amazing soccer -- or better yet, football expert -- and a well known referee.  Few referees have ever stood up to Sir Alex Ferguson and emerged unharmed. As the London Sunday Times says "Crossing swords with Sam Allardyce can be scary, too. Only the exceptionally brave or extremely foolhardy take on two of the biggest personalities the game can offer.  Keith Hackett did on a monthly, sometimes weekly, basis. As the general manager of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL), the referees’ governing body, fronting Fergie and battling Big Sam was an occupational hazard."  Based on his cult classic cartoon strip You are the Ref which exclusively appears in the London Newspaper the Guardian, Hackett is the author of the new book You Are The Ref with illustrator Paul Trevillion

Hacket provides SN with an insiders understanding of what is like to be a referee and how and why "some of these calls are made". Here, in Hackett's first column, he asks a really good questions ... why not become a ref? 

ASK the REF Spotlight: Why not become a Referee?

If you really want to participate in soccer and derive some real enjoyment then why not take up Refereeing.                 

There is a real sense of achievement when you go through the initial instruction and pass your examination to qualify you to wear the kit and blow that whistle.

There is no doubt that the initial walk onto the field of play to Referee that first game will stay in your memory for the rest of your life.

Believe me I can remember vividly in 1960 taking charge of my first game between two youth teams and receiving a well done pat on the back after the game.

Little did I think that I would go on to Referee at every major ground around the world and even visit America to officiate on the North American Soccer League.

The laws of the game are the same if you are officiating children in the local park or the Professional players in Giants Stadium.

The approach with the players participating in the game is different. The demands on you to make accurate decisions are the same and you owe it to the game to work hard to achieve those accurate viewing angles to detect offences.

When you officiate the youngsters you really do have an opportunity to educate them into the Laws of the Game. Explain your decisions and why you have blown the whistle.

“Offside everyone”....... “Direct free kick”......”Throw in to the reds”.....”Right over your head please”.

Encourage fair play and enjoyment.

The higher that you rise on the promotion ladder the more difficult the games become and whilst you are expected to Referee the game you also take on that added role of event manager.

If the game is been televised then you must ensure that it kicks off exactly on time. Just imagine kicking off say five minutes early because everyone is ready and a goal is scored. Think about the supporter who sits down in front of the television and switches on to find out that he has missed the first goal.

Not a happy viewer.

Those first early games will give you the opportunity of practising the law and you will begin to understand those additional tasks placed upon you.

  • You must be fair and impartial
  • You must control the players
  • You must communicate your decisions verbally and through a series of hand and arm signals
  • You must apply the Laws of the game in a consistent manner.

Referees are like good managers in industry......You must develop your cognitive skills “Better managers see things before they happen” , Yes if you can anticipate what the outcome might be to the next move then you will improve your on field movement patterns

You need to develop your interpersonal skills that will earn you respect. If your approach is aggressive then you are likely to promote the players to react in a similar way.

In those junior games where parents are watching their children play the game you should encourage the kids to play in a fair manner by complimenting then on their efforts.

You can do this and still remain impartial

One of the underlying requirements of a Referee is to be fit in order to be in contact with the game in order to make those accurate decisions.

Referees in the Professional game in England demonstrate high levels of fitness week in week out.

See below some statistics to ponder on

Average Distance from Ball


Average Distance from fouls


Average Distance covered in games


One of the opportunities a young referee has to impress those that are watching

Is to demonstrate your fitness.   You do this by increasing your sprinting speeds. Improve your proximity to play using your agility to gain those advantageous viewing angles that ensure you make the correct decisions.


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