A Top Soccer Referee's View of Refereeing

The following extract was taken from an interview of Neil Midgley (ex Premiership referee) by Will Buckley.

Published in the Observer newspaper - sports section 14th November 1999

Although Neil Midgley is/was a soccer referee much of his philosophy and approach to refereeing is applicable to hockey. His approach to refereeing may be out of favour but is both entertaining and enlightening. Here are some of his guidelines.

Use of the whistle

'It's important to make your whistle talk. Don't use it all the time, point for a goal-kick or throw-in, and then give a real blast for a vicious tackle.'


'Mickey-taking is part of a footballer's life, that is what they are, that is the animal. When Saturday comes most of them do the same thing. You have to accept that and chat back.'

Controlling the game

'Like a herd of cows there's always a gaffer and it's not always the captain. Have a wink with him because he's the one that will do half your job for you.'

Mass brawls

'I reffed a game between Newcastle and Portsmouth and it turned into Madison Square Garden. The last thing you do is get involved. I stood by the goal post and said, "Have we all finished? Anyone else want a smack? Everyone happy?" And then, "You [Kevin Ball] red card, you [Peter Jackson] red card, you [Kevin Dillon] red card." It was hilarious because they were all sh**ing themselves because they didn't know when I'd stop.'

Use of cards

'With too many of the current referees "Bang" the yellow card comes out like a gunslinger. Once you've done that you've got to carry on. It should only come out to stop an explosive situation.'

Good teams

'The players reflect their manager. Brian Clough's team at Nottingham Forest was an absolute pleasure to referee. 'Even Kenny Burns?' 0h, I cautioned him every time.'

General principle

'You always get a chance to shine and it's important you don't miss it. A smart ref will steam in early on even if he has to contrive the situation. It's like a goalkeeper wanting an early touch'

Abiding principle

'If people accept you as a person they are more likely to accept your decisions.'

Recognise some of these scenarios? I think there is some food for thought here for hockey umpires. I think it's also true to say that soccer would benefit tremendously if it took on board some of hockey's methods of controlling players!

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