As officials we walk on the field somewhat confident that we possess the ability to call a fair game and do a good job orchestrating the upcoming match. We have studied and know the rules, we arrive on time and we look and act professional.
The match begins and everything seems to go smoothly. A call here, another there and our decisions do not go unnoticed but they are accepted. As the match progresses we make a call that we know is fair and according to the Laws but this time, players, coaches and spectators begin to question our decisions and vocalize such phrases as: “During our last game the ref did not call that!”, “Call it both ways!”, “The other refs did not require that!” or “The other refs did not make us remove that equipment!” Many officials understand that players, coaches and fans will make comments like these to try to influence a referee’s decisions and avoid any sanctions against their team.
Some comments may be made that we may sympathize with but because it is in the Laws we, as the Guardian of the Laws, must enforce them. Such things as removing all jewelry, coaches remaining in the team area, portable goals must be anchored to the ground, players and/or coaches questioning or abusing members of the officiating crew are against the Laws and the Spirit of The Laws and yet field after field and game after game we see those things taking place over and over again.
Many officials must surely be aware that these things are happening but they seem to find them unimportant enough to overlook them and not deal with them.
The problem with officials who selectively decide which Laws need enforcing or not is that they set the stage for the officials who come after them. Laws which are not enforced in a consistent way will lead to confusion, dissent, cause situations to escalate and eventually lead to loss of game control and possible ejections.
So who are the ones creating the problems game after game? The ones who follow and enforce the Laws or those who do not?
On many occasions, Bob Evans (famous author, lecturer, referee, and student of the game) said: “If YOU do it right, YOU will never be wrong.”
After your next assignment, think about two things: what did the officials who worked before you leave behind for you and what did you leave behind for those who come after you? Were you set up for success or failure and what did you leave behind for those who will follow?
As officials our consistency is important in calling good game after good game. The coaches, the players and the teams may change week to week, season to season but the game remains the same.