Real time decision making for referees

A careful person, a wise person, when faced with an unexpected situation says, “Hold on, I’ll think about this for a minute. I’ll mull it over and then I’ll decide”.

When a lawyer finds himself being asked a tricky question by a client he the possibility, or rather the duty, of saying, “I’ll see you in a week, let me consider this”.

A doctor can ask for further analysis before deciding on the best treatment. And even the figure the referees most often compared to, the judge, before pronouncing his verdict, retires to his chambers to ponder, to evaluate, before making his decision.

We’re not allowed any of this.

What we are asked to do, even in the most unexpected, unforeseen of situations is to make a decision in what’s called ‘real time’, in a fraction of a second. This is not a simple matter.

I wish this enormous difference were understood by those who sit in an armchair…

Pierluigi Collina, the man whose stare could reduce celebrity soccer players to silence is considered the best referee in the world, having been named FIFA’s ‘Best Referee of the Year’ six consecutive times. Currently head of UEFA Referees (


Author: James

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

One thought on “Real time decision making for referees”

  1. Those are “zombie” eyes!

    It’s exactly this “real time” issue that makes me think that the offside rule needs major modification. For both kids soccer and the pros. It’s just impossible for an AR to see if a person is offside and involved in the play when 15 people are packed into the box.

    They need a modifier like “..Offside is not called when the ball is closer to the goal than the outer line of the penalty box, at the point the ball is kicked.” Or something..:


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