So, last blog for August before I jet off for a holiday this evening and it’s a subject that many have an opinion on, like ’em or loathe ’em but referees are just as crucial to games as many other components.
Last week I was invited to the West Sussex Referees Association meeting by Mark Spence, a referee on our County League and BetVictor Youth League(Isthmian) circuit and also chairman of Littlehampton Town Youth.
None of us can deny that we see the man in the middle and his assistants on the sidelines as villains of the peace more often that not. If the referee has a quiet game it goes unnoticed, I’m just as guilty as anyone else of levelling much criticism their way, some justified some not. I did send off a couple of emails as Wick Secretary last season to praise match officials as it was well deserved, I did however have to complain about three times during the course of the season!
The West Sussex branch was formed as a merger between the Worthing and Bognor branch and gives referees the chance to get to together every third Monday in the month to share stories, experiences and brief any changes or correspondence that needs addressing. This particular meeting I attended was a run through of the 27 law changes made by IFAB since the end of last season. Yes, 27! Some were a tidying up exercise of wording of those laws, some more significant.
The presentation was very well delivered by Michael Ryan, easy to get lost in the amount of information being thrown out as part of it but it was set out very well and interaction was encouraged throughout. Backing up Michael from the floor were ex top level referee Martin Bodenham, one of my favourite referees from the past when the man in black could referee and allow a crunching tackle and not be subjected to players confronting and surrounding him at every given decision. Also in attendance was ex Premier League referee Gary Willard, something I felt was great to see and of course some great opinions and stories.
27 laws changes is the most I’ve seen released for the start of a new season. As I mentioned though some just tidied up wording, but it was interesting to hear as a spectator and club official how the new laws will affect games and whether there is some scope for interpretation.
The new laws range from substitutes leaving the pitch from the nearest point, that opened up debate if it’s not possible in terms of safety for that to happen at some grounds etc. At Step 5 and 6 level and below, the new Sin Bin law is in force this season for dissent towards the referee. The goal kick law has changed for the ball not needing to leave the penalty area, a ball hitting the referee goes back to the team in possession prior to the obstruction and a goal kick now not needing to leave the penalty area before it is back in play, these of course are just some of the new changes to get on board with.
It was nice to sit there and listen to the stories these referee’s had, on my table alone one guy had been officiating in Australia and a lady had just returned from France refereeing in a veterans World Cup, it was also refreshing to see two ladies there, I hope there are more out there.
My only disappointment of the evening was maybe the lack of referees there, it’s a good voice for them for feedback and I would hope more attend as the season goes on, I know they are keen for managers and club officials to attend and see what they do, hopefully this will prove beneficial for clubs and referees to work together to improve as one.