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Helping support referees on their journey from Grassroots to Premier League

Steel City Referee Association - Referee Development and Training

Understanding why grassroots referees, choose not to use “club Assistants”

When teams play sometimes spectators, players or management will ask if you need assistants, thinking lack of assistants is confined to their own league. What isn’t realised is a lot of grassroots football play without assistants, the boys league, the girls league, In adults Sunday leagues, Wragg League O35’s and O45’s, and importantly Div 1and 2 and some of the premiership games of the County Senior league which until recently was step 7 of the FA pyramid system.  So as you can see this isn’t isolated and there are reasons match officials choose to referee without using club assistants. (Club assistants are normally a substitute or a spectator who reluctantly pick up the flag to offer assistance)

When a referee turns up for a game they set out to minimise issues during the game and they try to eliminate any potential issues that could happen. The first things a referee must do is check the pitch, get a feel for the pitch, the weather any areas of the pitch may be an issue depending on weather, has the pitch correctly been marked out according to the laws of the game, next its time to check the nets, particularly the side of nets, where there is huge potential for issues, something that can be avoided and something the officials really doesn’t need during the game.

The same decision is made over club assistants, many referees when they arrive at their first games will use club assistants, this is all part of reducing the possibility of issues during the game, they will be nervous, they are more likely to be somewhere they are unfamiliar with and more than likely alone. The question to ask is simply why don’t they continue using club assistants, but instead choose to do it as a single lone match official?

Qualified Referees Training for Offsides Decisions

Referees when using club assistants have other choices to make, first choice, do you ask them to do offsides or just to flag for if the ball is in or out of play.

Picture this from the top divisions in the country, during a  Sheff Utd game there was a decision regarding the ball and a key match incident, was the ball on the line or over the line, it was the neutral assistant’s choice, someone who doesn’t care who wins or loses and only that he and his other 3 team members of the referee team have a good game and ensure they get key match incidents correct. Now, could you imagine a club assistant making the exact same decision, think of the issues this would cause the match official, 50% of players ecstatic at the decision, and one-half completely angered and incensed over the choice to give or not give the goal?

If you go onto social media, watch the sports channels, read the newspapers you will see, hear and read people’s opinions regards the neutral assistant’s decision in real-time, at real speed, and with only a single view.
Think of that lone match official, do they go with the club assistant’s decision, or do they overrule, either way, 50% of people will not support your decision. You also have the fact the assistant will have many insinuations shouted their way and if they are in front of the spectators of both teams, it will only cause far more issues.

Plus it’s imperative you always remember as a player, spectator, or manager, offsides are a matter of opinion. They do not have the training of the match official and have more than likely not read the laws of the game and the actual wording around the offside anytime recently. I advise anyone to read the offside law, at the time of writing this, it is a shambles.
If you’ve seen club assistants in action, if they have their own attacking line, close calls are going in favour of the attacker, if they have the opposing teams attack, the same close calls are going in favour of the defence. How does the lone referee decide whose making what decision?

Lots of lone referees have been in this exact situation and it causes the referee no end of trouble, the referee wants to just referee the game to the best of their ability but now they can’t, they have to referee parents/spectators and managers causing issues on the sidelines. How effective will the referee be now, because on the sidelines there is an atmosphere and some of it’s directed at a volunteer, The other is directed at you for your choice of club assistant even though that choice wasn’t yours!

Refereeing is hard, otherwise, everyone would be doing it and we wouldn’t have a nationwide referee shortage, so many people say I couldn’t do it, but then continue to criticise the ones who do. (I never understand that)
Referee’s turn up at games as only one-third of the recommended number of officials in the laws of the game. Now imagine an 11 aside team playing with two-thirds of their players missing each week, would they still do an effective job?
Referees do this weekly and they produce a good job, in fact, they do a very good job, yes they make the occasional mistake but they never intend to.
Is every goal scored because of a mistake by the referee, or can it possibly be a defender error or even a goalkeeper error?

Let’s look at this in a different way, if you lose 3-2 and the lone referee made an honest mistake for one of the goals, did you lose because of this error or the two errors made in defence leading to the other two goals? If you’ve scored two goals, but your attackers have missed 2 clear shots at goal, are these two shots errors that may have cost you the game?

referee development
Makes You Think

Refereeing is hard which is why you do your best to eliminate possible issues, in training purposes “control the controllable” Pitch, nets, and being prepared to officiate on your own are preparations for a game giving you the maximum chance of delivering a good game. An error means any issue is directed at you and you only, it shouldn’t be, but unfortunately some spectators cannot help themselves and express their unqualified opinion towards you.

The Referee Association is a great place qualified referees can talk about game incidents, they learn and develop the game and learn to minimise potential hot points, it’s interesting how referees stop using club assistants, you hear the stories of looking at an assistant for an offside decision, and the flag is under their arm while they chat to someone and poof on a cigarette. It happens up and down the country.

If the issue of lone referees is such a problem for your club, the league you are playing in can appoint neutral officials, this comes with a few areas to consider, 1st you must have the funds to pay for the assistants as well as the referee, 2nd you accept the decisions of the neutral assistant without comment, appeal a decision but don’t demand. The final part is the largest issue and with a nationwide referee shortage putting two assistants on a game, means two games need to go without a qualified referee. You then ask the question why is there a referee shortage, look at the 2nd point, spectators can’t accept the decisions, and think they always know best and are happy to be vocal about it.