The World's Worst Referee

By Randy Vogt

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

15 comments about "The World's Worst Referee ".
  1. David V, March 23, 2016 at 1:09 p.m.

    HOWARD WEBB - I thought this was about Howard Webb, re-watch the 2010 WC Final!

  2. Troy Swanson, March 23, 2016 at 1:31 p.m.


    Was it the mistakes he made or the I don't care attitude which bothered you the most.

  3. Randy Vogt, March 23, 2016 at 2:01 p.m.

    The I don't care attitude. He would never have become any better with that attitude. If he cared about what he was doing, he would have eventually eliminated most of his errors. --Randy

  4. Kent James, March 23, 2016 at 2:04 p.m.

    Randy, you've been to too many ref clinics. What you described is not even in the running for the world's worst ref. Sure, he's got some issues, but the fact that you even say he didn't miss many calls would automatically disqualify him for the world's worst ref. The mechanics of the game you focus on (back-up watch, running the right diagonal, coin flip, bench management) certainly help refs make better calls, but what players care about most, is refs getting the call right. The world's worst ref would have to share some of the following characteristics that are readily observable in refs we see everyday: an inability to run, lack of knowledge of the rules, no understanding of the game, arrogance, extreme sensitivity to perceived slights (or challenges to authority), tardiness, interest only in a paycheck, inappropriate uniform...and this list is by no means complete.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, March 23, 2016 at 3:20 p.m.

    I think you missed Randy's point that the referee was lucky because there weren't many calls to make. I took the "world's worst referee" description as hyperbole, and that actually this was merely the worst referee so far of the many Randy has encountered over the years. I also suspect that you are not differentiating between a grade 8 struggling through his first year and a 40 year old center in a U13 tournament.

  6. Bob Ashpole replied, March 23, 2016 at 3:35 p.m.

    Also regarding what players want from a referee, I wanted consistency and safety. I can also say that most players and coaches I dealt with also valued consistency and safety above all else. On the other hand fans have different priorities. I expected there would be some mistakes. Rarely would I see a match without mistakes. My experience was that grade 5s and 6s made far fewer mistakes, but I rarely had that privilege. Usually I dealt with experienced 8s and some 7s.

  7. David Warren, March 23, 2016 at 5:42 p.m.

    I understand Randy's sentiment re attitude. But I've seen much worse, just in the last few weeks. Blowing the whistle after each goal is silly, but really trifling. On the other hand: no concept of ball to hand from 1 foot away, arms down; no concept whatsoever of the modern offside law; whistling my opponent for offside when my team played a back pass to him [on that one I had to play the indirect kick out of bounds to return the ball to them, even with my teammates objecting to my honesty]; allowing a player to 'score' a goal when his penalty hit the post and bounced right back to him; calling a foul throw because the ball "had spin on it", allowing a team to play a free kick inside their own penalty area to their goalkeeper who was also in the area; no card whatsoever on a clear DOGSO as our attacker raced in alone on goal because it "wasn't reckless, only careless", etc. etc. I see refs every week who have barely glanced at the laws...

  8. beautiful game, March 23, 2016 at 11:30 p.m.

    Incompetent macho-man. Youth referees should be observed by an assessor at least two times during the season.

  9. R2 Dad replied, March 24, 2016 at 12:15 a.m.

    Most referees are grade 8s and aren't required to get assessed. A D&G review would be helpful, but you have to go out of your way to get one and most weekend warriors like me don't have the bandwidth to go to some state cup match 2 hours away to get it. I've heard this might be changing.

  10. ROBERT BOND, March 24, 2016 at 8:56 a.m.

    more review by leagues! only gripe out loud myself when too much rough play, i.e., not ok to run player over who has already passed ball.......

  11. John Schultz, March 24, 2016 at 10:07 a.m.

    In Chicago, leagues like NISL and YSSL care only about attracting more teams for higher profit and not about quality of games with adequate reffing.

  12. Woody Woodpecker, March 24, 2016 at 10:37 a.m.

    I'm a ref, *18 years and most, not all people including players, coaches, and administrators know very little about the LOG. Refereeing is very hard. I use to stand on the sidelines as a coach and berate refs, I also did it as a player. I still play at 54 years of age in the over 50's league. Knowing how hard it is to referee, I don't say a "peep" anymore while playing. I've refereed with some FIFA and MLS referees, and they are incredibly fit, knowledgeable and experienced. However, many referees I work with are lazy, incompetent and arrogant. But sadly so are many coaches, players and parents. You block out the "BS" from parents and coaches and work hard at the match...I've of the opinion the Referee should run harder than the players...Lastly, go out and take the badge and come out and enjoy the beautiful game....There's a huge need for referees....

  13. Scott Johnson, March 24, 2016 at 2:40 p.m.

    I saw the headline and thought, "not another complaint about MLS..."

  14. Fire Paul Gardner Now, March 24, 2016 at 6:49 p.m.

    What's the point of this article? Randy Vogt is the greatest ref ever and some guy he refed with one day is hopeless. Wow - fascinating!!!

  15. Bob Ashpole replied, March 26, 2016 at 5:34 p.m.

    I think it was intended to be a humorous story about how not to referee a match.

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