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Are we being too harsh on referees? Do we need to cut a bit of slack? Do you think you could be a referee? Referees have been put in the limelight for a long time a lot of them have been scrutinised by fans, players, and even the media, and I went to find out the pressures of becoming a referee.

Coming from no experience of refereeing, I was very naive in how they train and learn the game. So I travelled to the Hampshire FA Headquarters, for a CORE meeting with young referees who have the potential to be a Football League Official.  It consisted of referees from the Southern Region, who came from the counties of Hampshire, Sussex, Surrey and Dorset. This is the first season that it has come into place, and it has previously been successful with UEFA referees. I had no expectations on what was going to happen on the day.

The morning session started outside on the pitch, where they practiced certain game scenarios. The three drills were penalties, assistant refereeing, and a counter attack from a corner. The most interesting point to make from those scenarios were the differences in opinions when discussing what the referee should do. What surprised me the most about the practical session was the amount of decisions they had to make within a small period of time.

In the afternoon, there was a theory session, which started with penalties, which had no coincidence with the unfortunate mistake by Keith Stroud when Newcastle United played Burton Albion last Wednesday, when he gave a free kick to Burton Albion. The silver lining was that it was the perfect example for the referees to discuss what the match officials should have done to have prevented that from happening. Fortunately for Stroud, ‘The Magpies’ did go on win the three points, so the implications weren’t as heavy as what they could have been. The referees and coaches discussed about what makes a second yellow card and how it affects the dynamics of the game, whether it’s a mandatory yellow card or whether the player should stay on the pitch. Once again, the differences in opinion made it interesting to hear in terms of what the referees were thinking when looking at various situations.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience and it was great to get some insight and the pressures of being a referee. It got the balance of having fun but also a serious tone to the coaching aspect. It got a sense of being ran like a football club but for referees. Some will stay on for next season, but some will no longer be on the course, which is similar to having football trials.

With video technology coming into fruition in the next season or two, this could help or hinder the beautiful game. I think that there should be an appeal/challenge system like in tennis and cricket, because if only the referees are allowed to use the video technology, the game will become slower and it damages the fun of the sport. Also, there will be some decisions where you look at the footage 20-30 times and there will be no conclusive answer. The sport is made for humans, not for computers. People make mistakes and that is what makes sport, sport. It’s what makes the back pages and gets people talking. It’s what makes people turn the TV or radio on. On the whole, goal-line technology has been a success, but by going too far will ruin the game that we all love. Use video technology, but don’t abuse it!

Referees are there to be inspected, but some of the scrutiny is over-exaggerated. We should be more lenient, because at the end of the day, they are only human.