Willowburn Football Club is a strong supporter of the referees that make our competitive fixtures possible.  The Club under no circumstances tolerates abuse of referees from its players, coaching staff or supporters and makes every effort to discipline those found to be falling short of our expectations.

Putting yourself in the shoes of a referee

We all have our gripes with referees, and a lot of us even believe we could do a better job.  But before we play our next game, let's stop and consider for one moment what it would be like to referee it...

As you walk out onto the field you realise that it is critical that you enforce the rules evenly, keep the game fair and make sure the rules are applied to every player in a consistent manner.  Given the passion and one-eyed views of the players, coaching staff and crowd, you appreciate that this is going to be difficult.  A lot of the decisions you make are not going to rest easily with everyone, it is literally impossible to keep everyone happy.  

If you are one of the better referees, you do however realise that the game is not about you.  After all, there are kids playing football in streets in Brazil, in parks in England and on fields all over the world without a referee, but we will never see a referee officiating a game without players. The game is played for the players and supporters and as referee, we provide a service to the game, but we are not the game.

So, as the referee, consider the following scenarios, would you be more likely or less likely to award decisions in favour of a Willowburn player if:

- the Willowburn player has already been warned, and doesn't seem interested in 'taking the hint';
- the Willowburn player complains verbally every time he is penalised;
- the Willowburn coaching staff complain from the sideline every time the team is penalised; and
- the Willowburn crowd (including parents) yell abuse every time a decision goes against the team.

Furthermore, as the referee, would you be more likely or less likely to award in favour of a better behaved opposition team under these circumstances?

The reality is referees are human, and their decisions are affected by occurrences such as those scenarios listed above, especially if the situation has been 'brewing' for years.  The good news is, referee's human frailties also provide an opportunity if we are clever enough to capitalise on them.  There is an art to effectively managing on-field relationships with referees, and a well disciplined approach, led by a strictly enforced code of conduct (enforced by the coach off the field, and the captain on the field) will provide Willowburn's teams with the opportunity to fare better than their opponents, when it comes to 50/50 refereeing decisions.

It has been suggested that Willowburn has not been getting the "rub of the green" in recent seasons.  We think it's time to stop blaming the referees for this (potentially correct or incorrect) observation and start taking responsibility as a club for how we are perceived by referees, which may have historically led to our downfall at crucial times in prior seasons.  

We, as a club, will reap what we sow.

We have the potential to change our own behaviour, but we are in no position whatsoever to change the referees or "make them better".

Here are some ways we can go about it:
1) Acknowledge that the referee is not the enemy.  Lose the 'victim mentality'.  If we believe we are going to be dealt with harshly by a referee before the game even starts, chances are we are going to be spot on.  It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2) Acknowledge that we will get favourable and unfavourable decisions at different times.  Expect this before we walk onto the field, then we will not need to display disgust and can get on with the game.  Rest assured that the decisions will 'even out' over time.
3) Be pleasant to the referee.  Say things like "Sorry Sir" if we commit an obvious foul.  This makes the ref's job easier, and he/she will relax a bit and 'warm' to our team.
4) Play fair.  For example, if we are in your attacking half, and know we had the last touch before the ball went out, and the linesman/referee got the decision incorrect, 'fess up once in a while.  That small gesture often pays dividends for the rest of the game.
5) The coach and captain of the team need to constantly ensure that their players do not step out of line in a way that would be detrimental to the team's goal of maintaining a healthy reputation for being a 'pleasant team to referee'.

While this may seem difficult at first, we need to remember that the game is not about ourselves and our own egos.  It is about what is going to be best for our team.  And keep in mind, what good can possibly come from any Willowburn player, coach or crowd member that expresses disapproval at a refereeing decision?  How many times have you seen a referee change a decision based on 'input' from the crowd?  Disagreeing is therefore futile, and only brings our team harm, not good.

As a club, we need to take responsibility for the things we can control (our own behaviour), and stop worrying about the things we cannot (the ref's).  The end result?  The degree of animosity at our games will reduce and everyone will enjoy themselves more, regardless of the result.  The blame game will cease, and we can look forward to a season of football games where the players were the key focus, not the performances of the referees.