I was assigned as an assistant referee for a boys U-13, Division 5E game that Sunday morning before the boys U-16, Division 2 game that I would ref on another field that afternoon. I e-mailed the ref to confirm the field and kickoff time and he responded, “That’s what Arbiter (the assigning website) says. I will see you Sunday.”
The ref was supposed to call the home coach to confirm field and kickoff time but he did not. I did not want to be standing with him and the other assistant ref on an empty field that day so I called the home coach to confirm instead. It went downhill from there.
The ref arrived at the field and we checked the player passes. Sometimes with people who do not know me or do not read these articles, I simply say that I have a good deal of experience and leave it at that, hoping that they will listen to what I say if I give them any pointers.
For the coin toss, the ref told the visiting team to simply choose which side it wanted rather than him flipping a coin. I later asked the ref if he needed a coin and he said that he did not. I told him that since we did not have a coin toss, the losing team could protest and have the game replayed but he did not seem interested in what I was saying.
So we started the game. The ref, around 40 years old with a couple of years of experience, was lazy. He ran in a straight line down the middle of the field 25 yards from one goal to 25 yards from another goal. With just two games to ref that day, it’s not as if he had to pace himself. He should have run in a diagonal, which is really more like a half-open scissor, corner flag to corner flag, penalty arc to penalty arc. Run down the middle of the field and you will miss fouls by the touchline, often in a hot zone in front of the team benches.
But he did not miss many fouls as there was little to call. He blew the whistle after every goal, which he should not have done. Just blow the whistle for balls that just go over the goal line when it’s not obvious a goal has been scored.
The ref allowed the home coach to openly dissent just about every decision of the few calls that went against the home team. That’s obviously not a good thing to let a coach give a running commentary of the officiating as it often contributes to an atmosphere in which players stop playing soccer and began to focus on what the ref is calling (or not), which leads to more robust challenges and more vocal dissent. Thankfully, that did not happen in this game but it certainly could have.
The ref then whistled two offside decisions against the visiting team in which the player was onside. As AR1, I was in line with the second-to-last defender and he did not even look at me and simply called with what he thought he saw.
I was relieved when we reached the 35-minute mark of the second half with the visiting team winning 6-1. The final whistle was going to blow and the world’s worst referee was going to survive this game. We went into the 36th minute and the visiting coach asked him, “How much time do you have left?”
The ref responded, “10 minutes. I started the half at 10 minutes to 10.”
Play came down into my end for a corner kick and I told the ref that we were in the 36th minute. As play moved upfield, the visiting coach said to me, “It does not matter because we are winning by five goals but this game should be over.”
The ref ended the game six minutes later. That’s the problem you have when you do not have a stopwatch on one wrist and another watch as backup on the other wrist. I let the world’s worst referee look at my stopwatch, showing we played nearly 42 minutes in the second half and he told me, “That’s because you started your stopwatch early.”
I told the powers that be that he needed to be assessed so he could possibly get better and was told that there have been complaints about him. This game was two years ago. I never saw him again, either at a ref meeting or at a soccer field. For the good of the game, it’s best that the world’s worst referee is no longer officiating.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/)