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Respect the Ref: Be part of the solution this spring

MAINEVILLE, OH (Mar 15, 2022) – In the beginning, “football” was played amongst a small number of private high schools in England.  A captain was appointed by each team so that disagreements over the rules could be resolved amicably. As competitive tensions rose, “gentlemen’s agreements” between captains failed to efficiently resolve disputes and so the referee was introduced in the late 1800’s to act as the neutral arbitrator.

And so it has evolved.

Today, referees and assistant referees are as integral to the game as players, coaches, and administrators. Together we form a four-legged chair that supports the game. Referees look out for the safety of the players and the integrity of the match; and, like players and coaches and administrators, there are lots of enthusiastic but inexperienced novice referees who just need time to develop their knowledge and skills. Developing a level of competence is dependent upon learning from successes and failures.

Understanding and supporting our referees is now more critical than ever.  When as many as 50% of new recruits leave after their first season, schools are cancelling games, and we have a statistical deficit when comparing the number of games scheduled to the number of available referees, we have to ask what we can do to help? Here are some thoughts…

  • Appreciate that sideline negativity is the primary reason officials quit.
  • Appreciate that 50% of the people on the sidelines always disagree with any call a referee makes.
  • Appreciate that young referees are someone’s son or daughter. What if they were yours?
  • Appreciate that, short of VAR, a referee will never change a decision based on “feedback” from the sidelines. “In the opinion of the referee” is final!
  • Appreciate that the best player-response to any call is to transition to attack or defense. Positive call…  Does the team look to quickly play forward to catch the opponent off-balance and perhaps score a goal? Negative call… Does the team quickly get behind the ball to prevent the opponent from creating a scoring chance? Good players and good coaches are always tuned in to the next tactical possibility. The call won’t change.
  • Appreciate that baiting a referee is infinitely more likely to backfire than curry favor later in the game.
  • Appreciate that players consistently report they don’t want to hear their parents or coaches criticizing the officials.
  • Appreciate that players observe adults to learn behavioral norms. When adults are disrespectful towards opponents, coaches, or officials, the negative modeling is noted and often echoed.
  • Appreciate that a minimum number of players are required to start and complete a game. If the referee repeatedly pulls cards, most games will end as forfeits. Learning game management is really complicated.  
  • Appreciate that, according to Visek’s FUN MAPS research with both players and parents, “winning” ranked #48 out of 81 variables determining “fun.”  “Good” and “Bad” calls will tend to balance out over the course of a season and, in the bigger scheme of things, the outcome of one game means nothing to a player’s career. Good players will still be good players. They will still get recruited, if above average. Will still have fun playing. And will still look forward to the next game.


Join our campaign to Respect The Ref and push positive sideline behavior!

  • We’ve assembled several graphics that you can save and post to your social media. The campaign has gone green to match the common referee shirt color. Click here to access.
  • Post the ‘Respect The Ref’ logo to your website, or ask your local league or club to place it on theirs. It can be accessed in the same folder.
  • If you use Instagram, search “@theohiosoccer” in the gifs/stickers for a Respect The Ref sticker you can use in your stories!
  • Retweet/share the content released on Ohio Soccer Association timelines about referees.
  • Share this cool story about a professional referee who started on local fields in Ohio.

If you’d like to start refereeing local games, or know someone who does, please click here to get started or visit your local State Referee Committee (SRC) website. In Ohio there are two SRC’s, and where you live will determine which SRC you need to contact; Ohio North or Ohio South.

Together, we can make a difference!

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