Assignors are the people who give referees their schedules. Depending on the league, some assign the entire season at once while others assign on a week-to-week basis. One of the most important relationships that refs have is with assignors. I have worked for dozens of assignors during the past four decades and have found that this works:
Be Reliable. It might be surprising but reliability, and not officiating ability, is the most important trait that assignors are looking for in referees. Yet “reliability” has the word “ability” in it -- as they are not exclusive terms. Assignors are very busy people so when they assign a game, that’s the last thing they want to hear about the game. They do not want to receive a turn back from the ref unless it’s an absolute emergency. They do not want to receive a complaint from the coach before the game (that the ref did not contact the coach to confirm the match in leagues that require this or it’s five minutes before kickoff and the ref has not shown up) or after the game (that the ref supposedly did not control the game or favored the opposing team).
Perhaps the biggest misconception about my officiating career comes from my own colleagues as many believe that, being a pretty good ref, I’m in constant contact with assignors. Yet a whole season could go by and they never hear my voice on the telephone. They assign me games via the Internet or e-mail, I accept them and officiate the games.
Assignors know the score. Even where I live as the travel-team Long Island Junior Soccer League has nearly 1,000 games on weekends, the assignors know who they can rely on to treat every game as if it’s the World Cup final. Those are the refs who receive assignments on weekends with very few games.
Be Available. Assignors generally give the most games to refs who are available most of the time. This makes sense. But availability goes beyond that as schedules keep on changing because of weather or player or referee availability. Assignors put those refs on a pedestal who cover games for them at the last minute, often after officiating games earlier that day. Having done this many times, I know it’s exhausting but the players needed a referee so they could play their game.
Be Pleasant. If you want to hear interesting comments from refs, just ask them, “What do you think about your assignments?” Chances are you will hear a lot of comments, both positive and negative, from different refs about their assignors.
If a ref is unhappy with assignments, rather than complaining to others, the ref is to pick up the phone and call the assignor or speak to the assignor privately, such as away from others at a tournament or ref meeting. However, referees sometimes take the wrong attitude and immediately try and put assignors on the defensive. As the referee was standing there with other refs and the assignor, I’ve heard these conversations and it does not begin or end well when refs do this.
(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/)
From my experience, assignors have big egos and little interest in what is best for the game. They want their referees to make their job easy for them and rely on old refs who they know instead of finding/recruiting better younger refs who will do a better job. Refereeing big wigs and assignors should lose the feeling of self-importance and just call a good game. Way too often I see refs talking about the minutia of the LOTG instead of getting it right when it comes to calling fouls correctly. Get the big stuff right and very little else matters. 90% of ref instruction should focus on what is a foul... specifically when it comes to tackles. In particular, the law that states that a tackle is a foul -- regardless of whether or not the defender gets the ball -- if it is reckless, careless, or excessive. We need young refs who have played the game to be making these decisions, not refs who love the power and think that their knowledge of the rule book makes them a good ref.
Good points, Randy. Would also mention: Be Fit. For most referees under 30 this isn't such an issue in the amateur game. But for dinosaurs like myself staying fit is one of the top challenges. Pride goeth before a fall. You don't want to have to listen to your assignor have "that conversation".