Sunday, 15 December 2013

Law 18 - Common Sense

Football refereeing is all about ensuring safety, and applying the Laws of the Game as fairly as possible. In order to achieve this, referees must use an aspect alien to a lot of people nowadays - common sense. This allows the referee to use his/her discretion when making decisions (as long as they can answer to their bosses post-match) but also means that consistency among referees is very hard to find, what with different tolerance levels and poor positioning etc.

The reason for this article is to highlight the difficulties referees face when making a decision during a match, and how when managers call for consistency they are asking for Utopia.

Referees come from many different backgrounds, such as David Elleray (back in the day) being a House Master at Harrow School, and Chris Foy coming from the predominantly Rugby League town of St Helens. They both have different refereeing styles, with David Elleray famous for speaking to the players as naughty school kids and having a no-nonsense attitude towards back chat. It is possible to say that Chris Foy has a more laissez-faire style, he likes to let the game flow and (similar to Mark Halsey) gives the players the benefit of the doubt.

The vaired population of referees is also evident in grassroots football (perhaps even more so) as referees are appointed to matches locally and do not have to travel the length of the country just for one 90 minute game.

I was an Assistant Referee for a Welsh match on Saturday 14th December, and the referee had visited the pitch prior to kick off for a pitch inspection before picking myself and the other Assistant up from our regular meeting place. He declared that the pitch was fine and that conditions were not dangerous, therefore gave the all clear for the away team to travel up. Now, the away team were based an hour and a half away, so you can imagine their anger when after just 15 minutes of play, the referee decided to abandon the match because the conditions had deteriorated considerably.

But they hadn't! The wind had been so bad that EVERY other match in the league had been called off - this match was the only match in North Wales to have kicked off. The referee had not used his common sense, in checking the forecast beforehand and making a decision based upon the distance the away team had to travel and the fact that no other match was being played due to the weather.

There was always a strong possibility that the conditions could deteriorate, and I would not have sanctioned the match to be played as the away team had to travel so far.