Come on, ref!

16 06 2010

In my other life I’m a soccer fan and a qualified referee. Provincial Level, which means I get to ref everything from Under 13 Girls to Vancouver Island Men’s Div 1. I mention this for two reasons: firstly, to explain why my concentration level on the golf course is particularly low right now – it’s hard to concentrate on a short putt when what I’m really thinking about is how North Korea are faring against mighty Brazil in the World Cup. ( I’m also adding ‘sleep deprivation’ to my list of excuses as to why I’m not at my sharpest on or off the course – three games a day is already taking its toll, so I’m thinking that by the time the final rolls round on July 11th I’m going to resemble the walking dead – a bit like the England team against the USA, come to think of it…)

The second reason for mentioning being a soccer ref is to compare that job with being a rules official in golf. I’m a Level Three official in golf, which basically means I know a bit more than the average club player – just enough to be able to get away with all kinds of favourable rulings in my thrice weekly battles with Glennie, Robinski and Bandito Juan. I’m pretty new to rules officiating in golf (I qualified just over two years ago and have only done a handful of events) and was very surprised to find out how different it is from soccer. On the face of it, it looks fairly straightforward: you either know the rule, in which case you tell the player his options when asked to do so, or you don’t, in which case you look it up in the decisions book and then make the appropriate ruling. Trouble is, the 2010/2011 decisions book is 547 pages long, covering hundreds of similar but not identical situations, and it is far from easy for the inexperienced official to find exactly what he’s looking for in a short space of time. Situations in golf are almost always black and white and thus there is one correct ruling for every situation.

In soccer, on the other hand, you are constantly dealing with shades of grey. Was there intent to  handle the ball or was it purely accidental? Was the foul malicious,  simply clumsy or maybe not a foul at all? Was the defender shouting out ‘you wanker!’ referring to a team mate (possible yellow card) or you (probable red)? You have split seconds to make decisions and are likely to annoy half the players, not to mention vociferous fans, with every call you make. (Actually, on a particularly bad day, you can pretty much annoy everyone with every call you make).

So which do I prefer, reffing soccer or being a rules official in golf? To be honest, I would have to say I’m a better ref than I am a rules official at this point and so I enjoy it more. In golf you have to analyse the situation dispassionately and pronounce judgement. In soccer there’s a lot more passion involved and, from a ref’s point of view, a snap decision based on your view of the play. In golf, a player always has the right to ask for another rules official to review a decision. In soccer, the ref always has the final word. Or perhaps I should say ‘almost always’. I have vivid memories of a tempestuous game I reffed a few years ago, when one particular player was disputing just about every call I made. Finally, I’d had enough. “Look,” I said. “Who’s in charge of this game, anyway?” ” Right now, ref,” came the reply, ” to be quite honest – nobody!” I haven’t had anything like that from a golfer yet, but give me time – it’s early days in my officiating career…

All da best – and don’t give up on England at World Cup 2010 just yet: 1966 wasn’t just a fluke, you know!

Dave B.

P.S. By coincidence, I’m rules officiating at the Pacific region military playdowns at Glacier Greens today, and then reffing CFB Comox v Esquimalt at the base this evening. No rest for the wicked…




4 responses

16 06 2010

Good one Dave. How long will it be before video replay replaces all referees in all sports. The video replay in the Brian Davis self DQ clearly showed he had hit the infamous blade of grass, and the video would have clearly showed Thierri Henri’s famous hand-ball goal. I hope it never comes to that. It’s much more fun watching soccer fans chasing The Bagger out of the park!
Cheers Dave

16 06 2010
Bagger Dave

Whenever players complain about one of my decisions, Martin, I always tell them to look at the video after the game and they’ll see I was right. This usually confuses them long enough for me to make my getaway…


17 06 2010
Glen Livet

Are you an official at golf and soccer because you are/were so limited in your abilities as a player? Or is it that you have reached your peak at both and would like to vent your frustrations or knowledge on the unsuspecting public?

17 06 2010
Bagger Dave

An excellent question, Peter. The farther I’ve got from my soccer playing career, the better I seem to remember playing. Decades from now, when I’ve taken up, say, lawn bowling, I expect I shall remember being a really good golfer. Selective memory is a wonderful thing!


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