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The Third Team

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When a team does not play together the result seldom goes their way. This is also true of the officials that are appointed to senior matches. I use the word senior advisably because I am referring mainly to games where there are official linesmen which does not happen until a match is within the pyramid.

Players in a team have often known each other for a long time and even train together to make sure they are on the same wavelength. Sometimes this even shows on the pitch! Do you ever wonder how we, as match officials, form our team?

As teams we are given fixtures, officials are appointed by a referees' appointments secretary, usually one month in advance. These appointments come from different sources depending on which league requires you, in a strict pyramid system of their own. In most cases, the first time the three officials will all meet is one or two hours before the match. As a referee it is your duty to not only form a team that will work together to the benefit of the match, but also to make sure there is little chance of being seen as a team out of step with each other.

The most important aspect of forming this unit is the pre-match instructions. It is here that the referee has to determine the degree of co-operation he requires and to assist his colleagues in determining when to signal and when to not. It can be infuriating to players and spectators alike when a linesman does not flag for a foul or an offside, but has it ever occurred to you that in certain instances he has been told not to. This may sound a strange statement, but if every infringement was flagged for and a stoppage in play resulted, the match would become farcical.

One must remember that the linesman is also a referee in his own right and as such can be expected by the referee to make certain judgements that can assist in making the game flow.

Try looking at your 'third team' at your next match in a different light and watch for the good things, not the rare mistake!

Excerpt from a Berkshire referee, taken from 20 years ago. Times have changed but the message stays the same.

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