Paint by numbers…


One thing that has really begun to grind on me this season is the prescriptive and unempathetic way referees are being instructed to “manage” matches. Referees are encouraged to count penalties, issue warnings and use yellow cards as part of their management strategy – but where does that leave room for instinct or feel for the game?

There is nothing within the Laws of the Game that either instruct or could be interpreted as this “paint by numbers” approach to refereeing the game. Why should a referee give warnings after penalty number “x” and then issue a yellow card after penalty number “y”? Where is the materiality and contextuality?

Coaches and captains now often demand a card for an opposition player – knowing that referees are being given a premeditated mandate for how they will manage penalty scenarios.

I was recently told in an assessment that I had missed a “golden opportunity” to issue a yellow card in the first ten minutes of a game – to a player who had retreated 9 meters and not 10 from a quick tap. Lets forget that it wasn’t in the magical “red zone” close to the try line and there were no trends at this point in the match. There were only 15 penalties all game, none of which warranted a technical yellow card.

Referees should be encouraged to manage the game they are in charge of – facilitate a safe and fun (yup FUN!) environment for 30 players to enjoy their sport.

I use my instinct to determine advantage in a game, and when that advantage is over, so surely I should be able to determine when a yellow card or even a penalty is needed within the context of the game.

I became a referee as injuries meant I couldn’t play any more – and I was determined to give something back to the sport I love. But there is a huge amount of politics, egos and opinions that are thrown at referees every week – but not from players; but their referee coaches, assessors and other “supporting” cast members!

Its important to get some input on law, positioning and other improvements to the game – but on how and when to manage penalties should be a discussion point – not a dictate!

South African referee Louis Wessels also highlights his views on the decline in management techniques and the over indulgence of cards to solve problem players.

Players play with instinct. Referees should be allowed to referee with some too…


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