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I think the lesson here is, referees are human and they react badly sometimes. Clattenburg could've handled that much better and he probably knows that if he's at all critical of himself or if he thinks about his disciplinary action post game and how it could've been avoided. Sometimes I feel the same way, referees get asked some incredibly stupid questions on the field and you sometimes just want players to shut up and get back to playing. We are required to be the diffuser of situations like this though so we have to hold on to that responsibility and use psychology if we can. Of course off the record I could give a F*ck about Fletcher, I guess that just makes me a jerk.

By the way I like that diffuser line you used and I'd like more of them. Sometimes I find myself at a loss for words when my mind is soo entrenched in the game...it would be nice to see a post of "Catchphrases" or the like to be used in certain situations...and people can contribute their own.

Mike Owens

Dr. Evans,

Wise words indeed. I wish I had heard them about a month ago! I had a similar incident where I talked a player into receiving a caution.

Two weeks ago, I was refereeing a High School game here in central Texas. It was the last game of the regular season and had no implications on the final standings. One team (let's call them Blue) is a much more skilled team and I believe made the playoffs. The other team (Green) is rawer in terms of talent but makes up for it through athleticism and determination. The Green team was already out of the playoffs.

The Green team managed to keep the game close; nearing the finish it was Green 0-1 Blue. The game had been pretty easy, lots of runs but not much in the way of hard fouling. I called it pretty tight to ensure no one got hurt, and I breezed around the field talking to players and heading off the occasional whining by just talking to and especially hearing out the players on both teams.

As the clock continued to run, Blue was taking their time on throw-ins and corners, but not excessively delaying -- Blue had been very deliberate on their set-pieces throughout the game. As the time neared the final horn the White team began to complain and ask me to stop the clock. Which of course I did not do, as changing the method of timekeeping would have been equally unfair to the Blue team. I waved away several White team players who continued to ask me to stop the clock.

And then...I uttered the fateful words to one of the White players when he asked if I could stop the clock: "Not unless you want me to caution you". Honestly, I intended it as a "diffuser", I even delivered it with a smile and a chuckle, thinking he would not take me up on it. But instead it opened the door for him. He was a Senior; it was the last game of the season; they were not going to the playoffs; the caution mattered not a bit to him. So at the next stoppage (a Blue corner kick), as Blue set up deliberately, this player ran up to me and started loudly (yet not profanely) berating me to try to get a caution for dissent. I waved him away and told him I knew what he was doing, I would not issue a caution. He continued yelling at me as I started play with the corner kick.

My decision not to give him the caution he wanted actually compounded the problem. Finally after the ball was cleared, this layer delivered a reckless but not violent tackle on a Blue player, and so I finally gave him the caution and time stoppage he was looking for.

After the game the player came up and apologized for his behavior and I accepted -- from refereeing this league all season I knew that it was out of character for him to dissent like that or reckelssly foul an opponent, but he was trying to "take one for the team" -- but I spent the next hour discussing with my ARs how I had given the White team an opening that I shouldn't have and and what lesson was to be learned from that. Sometimes "diffusers" work, sometimes they don't! Be very careful what you say and be aware of ALL aspects of the situation!

Mike Owens

Here are some things I've said to players that have helped:

A sincere "Would you rather have the free kick than the advantage?" Then listen to what they say. You don't have to act on it, but if players feel like you are listening to them they are less likely to feel like the game is not theirs but the referee's.

Another one in response to post-challenge whining is: "I saw it but you played right through that challenge. Well done." This one is used sparingly lest it lead to diving or embellishing.

A third one in response to complaints about pushing or charging is "you were leaning on her as much as she was leaning on you" or "you initiated the contact, not her". Usually the whiner will slink away realizing they got caught and their complaining is for naught.

Finally, there is the wry smile and gentle head shake, a non-confrontational way of letting the player know that you hear them but aren't going to change your mind.

OMG not again

I agree it's a man's game probably was not the best response, but I have heard from a few officials "Yep and you are giving about as good as you are getting" That worked for me after I got clattered and remembered the poor bugger I just hammered. I use that on the rare occasions when ignoring and using the "I will pay more attention to that:" if all else fails and the whining get's a little over the top.

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