How to Have Fun as a Ref

As a part of our continuing quest to inform, educate and entertain our readers we recently asked a top referee for his thoughts on the wearing of the black and white jersey. The results weren’t quite what we expected (although maybe we should have).


When you’re a ref you have to face the fact that everyone hates you. The fans hate you, the players hate you, the owners hate you. If you’re a referee you’re about as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip. There is only one way to stay sane and happy as a referee. It’s not about love of the sport, it’s not about impartiality, it’s all about knowing how much you’re hated and getting revenge. The best way to do this is to get your retaliation in first. Here are my rules for having a fun, relaxing and above all vengeful time as a referee -

1) Never read any interviews with players. They tend to criticise the standard of refereeing in this country, and you really don’t need to see that kind of thing.

2) Decide on your foul ratio – this is the ratio of fouls during the game compared to the number of times you actually blow your whistle. Most ISL referees think a foul ratio of 3:1 keeps the game flowing and saves them having to work too hard.

3) Change your first name to "Ohgodits", then when you skate onto the ice at the beginning of a match and half the crowd says "Oh God, it’s Smith" (assuming your name is Smith) it’ll just sound like they’re shouting your name.

4) In the referee’s dressing room before the game, toss a coin and decide which side you’re going to show bias towards. It really winds the fans up. If you want to just make it the away side then all the home fans will get wound up at you, which is a much larger and more satisfying number. Either way you’ll get the same number of players wound up.

5) Never wave at the fans when you skate out before the match. It only upsets them

6) Practice ignoring people – the fans will shout at you, the players will shout at you and it’s best if you can ignore all of them. (Referees still living at home with their mothers feel that this is a very valuable skill and have plenty of chance to practice it).

7) Have a read of the rules, but don’t bother too much about learning them fully or strictly enforcing them. Applying them randomly (such as penalising people for offside when they aren’t) is much more fun and another good wind-up for fans and players alike.

8) Learn to skate with your eyes shut. This will allow you to miss fouls as well, and help to keep up that foul ratio. If this is too hard, just keep your eyes on the attractive young ladies in the front rows of the crowd (it might be the closest you’ll ever get to an attractive woman).

9) If you do have to penalise someone, make the penalties as irrational and arbitrary as you like. 5 + game for a minor cross-check is a wonderful wind up. On the other hand, two minutes for a savage boarding that leaves a player concussed is also very satisfying.

10) If one players fouls another and the fouled player retaliates, penalise him harder than the player committing the foul. If you really want to wind people up, don’t penalise that player at all; just the victim.

11) Try and get in the way when a player hits the puck along the boards. It can introduce a wonderful random element to the game and wind people up again.

12) Park your car where you can make a quick getaway from the arena after the match. If the fans start recognising it, hire one for match nights.

13) Never, ever turn up at any Supporters’ Club events.