Why Do We Have Referees?

By: Georges-Frantz Louis, NISOA National Referee Emeritus, Instructor, Assessor


The purpose of this article is to create an effective learning/teaching association committed to developing Referees and other interested parties intellectually, and preparing them for a productive future where they will contribute fruitfully to the sports community.

As Referees interact to manage situations and players, we encounter the critics of the Commentators, the fans, and the Coaches. There lies pro-activity. When it comes to players, they complain after the fact. That’s being retro-active, for example, as players react to a loss of possession, a reckless challenge, a dangerous challenge, or a taunting act by an opponent. Therefore the answer is that it’s all about entrusting a neutral team of people with the intelligent management of an organized competition through the enforcement of adopted Rules and supportive Mechanics. Someone has to be ahead, or someone has to be “on top” Ultimately, someone has to win. Isn’t that what life is about? Yes! So, be prepared: the behavior of players can quickly escalate from fair to inflammatory.

The Referees; Who Are They?

Sinners go to confession to seek forgiveness and sympathy. In life, religion and laws don’t speak the same language. In sports, especially in our soccer game, Referees are those who promote a joyful entertainment because we speak the universal language of peace and unity while assuring safety and fun through fair and equitable application of the rules.

Evolution of the Referee.

In the world of sports reign some of the most talented, criticized, misunderstood, intelligent, and most trusted people, the Referees. Being a volunteer game official, a Referee undergoes a multitude of trials toward a formal certification prior to engage in the most challenging endeavor, which is to manage players and game situations. Before being indoctrinated, training is imperative. Referee’s preparation is demanding and very important, especially when familiarizing candidates with the psychology of the game and sophisticated strategies which includes the detailed tactics of the teams. Being ignorant of these facts, spectators, coaches, and commentators very often misunderstand and/or misinterpret the actions of the Referees. That’s one of the reasons why I recommend that Coaches, administrators, Sports Analysts should attend a Referee clinic. The latter will enable them to understand the letter and spirit of the rules, and just as importantly the psychology of the game. It should be transparent to all that on the pitch (Field of Play), all Referees (for example: Howard Webb (England), Frank Bazakos (USA), Rashvan Irmatov (Uzbekistan) obviously display several traits and characteristics of leadership. These Referees constantly strive for excellence by displaying courage, character, and consistency while remaining cool, calm, and collected. In fact, competence, confidence, and common sense are usually the most transparent values of a Referee. These traits and principles prevent a referee from being self-destructive when leaning on the negative aspects of officiating such as: being impatient, incompetent, and inconsistent.

Nowadays, young Referees are being fast-tracked to officiate higher level competitions. While they are in top physical condition, they still lack the ability to recognize and understand coaches’ strategies and the sophisticated tactics of a team, whether defensive or attacking. Therefore, knowing where the game needs them is obviously still a mystery. So, it’s imperative that all Referees consider an adequate training program supervised by a mentor as one important way to help their development.

Being Human; Are Referees Always Right?

Off course not!  Referees take into consideration all moments of uncertainty. When unsure, does a referee make a decision? Yes, indeed! He does not stop play, if the infraction appeared to be marginally reckless, trifling, not dangerous, or presented an advantage to either score a goal or to muster a promising attack.

The consequences of a moment of hesitation can be either positive or negative, i.e. beneficial or detrimental. Consider the odds Each positive experience strengthens a Referee’s decision making process, and eases his progress toward achieving distinction of being a Top Level Referee. As Dr. Robert Schuller (1980) stated in his book “The Peek to Peak Principle”, “each step up is a vision to maturity, one step closer to the peak of the pyramid of success where you achieve the ultimate career goal.”

It is clear that a referee’s career span is based on his set goals. (For example: immediate goals, intermediate goals, and ultimate goals). Set your goals as high as you set the bar or the standards in your games. The fact of the matter is crime is to society as violence is to sports! Imagine a Referee being challenged by a variety of unfortunate circumstances. The only available evidence to judge infractions is what his eyes observe. It is clear that the Referee’s decision is based solely on how he interprets an occurrence at that particular moment. The Referee’s opinion then plays an important role in determining the next restart of play and associated punishment, if necessary. Then, once a Referee has acquired enough healthy experience, he then exploits the horizon to take a peek at the peak of the officiating pyramid, at higher ground, at new opportunities, especially that of teaching the way to a successful career to new and upcoming referees.

Why Do We Have Referees?

In the world of athletics, such occurrences as infractions, fouls, and offenses are identified and managed by a group of people called Referees or Judges. They analyze the totality of circumstances, and simultaneously decide to stop play or to allow the game to flow on as the advantage is invoked. Overall, a Referee’s opinion does matter, unless human nature takes a toll on him when a mistake is made. A good referee is noticeable; his performance is fluid and consistent with the requirements that satisfy established rules.  As you can see, the performance of a Referee depends on the criteria for participant behavior that he sets.

What Is A Referee?

A Referee is a special human being who is acting n the capacity of a judicial figure to enforce the adopted rules of an organized sport with total honesty, integrity, courage, loyalty, fairness, and common sense. Great Referees rely on great judgment and wisdom to make their decisions. Consider why I believe that we find great soccer where there are good Referees. I still find it very disturbing the way the commentators, coaches, and a few spectators still using their misinterpretation of the rules as an excuse to blame tReferees for the outcome of a game.  As you can see, not anyone can be a Referee.

The Referee Community.

The large size of our country offers a multitude of opportunities which require a considerable number of people to preserve their relevance and importance in society. Most Referees are well-educated people. Obviously the USA can, and some day, will produce some of the best Referees in the world, provided that they focus on mastering the difficult art of officiating. Referees usually officiate with passion, determination, confidence, and the utmost sense of responsibility while safety and fairness are among the highest priorities. Few referees embrace the unhealthy theory of the “hooligan” spectators who enjoy the display of violence in the game. Knowing that such theory may lead the game into disrepute and mass confrontation, the governing sports authorities for soccer insist that Referees not allow the escalation of violent challenges; especially those that endanger the safety of participants or those that might produce career-ending injuries. The Referee community represents a strong family of leaders that together mature, while mastering the sophisticated techniques and demanding tactics of officiating.

Once again, I say: there are no bad Referees; some just lack exposure and experience. Long live the Referees!