Referees welcome: One club’s radical attitude towards officials

I came across this article on how one club in England radically changed their attitude to referees. The below insights are just as relevant for any club, team, and game here in our country.

In many ways, Seel Park is a forbidding venue. Perched on a Pennine hillside, the home of Mossley FC is no place for the faint-hearted on a cold winter’s night. For referees, however, it’s a warm and welcoming place.

While many managers talk of building fortresses, Mossley co-bosses Peter Band and Lloyd Morrison want their ground to be somewhere match officials know they can do their job free of intimidation and abuse, and which they are pleased to visit.

If this makes you think of the two as a couple of choirboys, think again. As a player with Hyde United and Altrincham, Band was totally uncompromising. He proudly describes himself as old-school — maybe not the greatest in terms of skill, but definitely among the most committed. And by his own admission he received more red and yellow cards than Christmas cards.

The Mossley charm offensive is less to do with being goody-goody and more to do with realism. If you antagonise referees there is only going to be one winner. Band and Morrison have learned that through bitter experience.

Band explained: “When I first became a manager, a couple of years ago, I thought I had to be the same way I was as a player. I was also influenced by Graham Heathcoat at Altrincham and my predecessor at Mossley, Steve Halford. So I screamed, shouted, swore and complained as much as anyone. And it did me absolutely no good. It got me nowhere.

“The club ended up with a terrible disciplinary record. We had players running 40 yards to get involved in incidents and at one point we seemed to be having a man sent off every match. The FA weren’t impressed.

“Lloyd and I realised it had to stop if we were ever going to make something of the place. Money being spent on FA fines was money being taken away from the wage bill. It was a bit like putting lots of effort into a long sponsored walk and then just giving away the funds you’d raised.

“Things are much better now. Players know bad discipline will hit them in the pocket, and we do our best to make the officials feel welcome.

“Every match I make a bee-line for the ref, take him a cup of coffee and ask if there’s anything I can do to help. We try to have a bit of banter too, especially with the linesman near our dug-out.

“I’m happy to say that officials are relaxed enough now to come into our social club for a drink, and at our recent game with Radcliffe they stayed chatting to Lloyd and me after a lot of the players had gone.”

Making the squad aware of this standpoint is an important part of the new strategy. Players have been told in no uncertain terms that they will have to pay — literally — for any dissent or abuse. Their job is to focus on the game, perform to the best of their ability and leave all other matters to the management. Arguing with the officials is to be avoided at all costs.

Band added: “I know referees are impartial in the way they do their job but it can’t do any harm to get them thinking of Seel Park as a friendly place and of Mossley as a club with discipline.

They’re just people with a love of the game like me, Lloyd and the players. And let’s be honest, we’d all struggle not to react if someone called us effing so-and-so’s to our faces.

“There’s nothing to be gained from bad behaviour. It’s self-defeating.”


Author: James

Lifelong player and student of the beautiful game in Germany, England, and USA. Volunteer futsal coach and USSF referee.

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