Several years ago, I was sat with the group of Select Group (Premier League) Referees, many of them also FIFA officials.

We listened intently to a presentation by two active referees Graham Barber and Graham Poll who were both at the top of their game at that time.

So, I want to suggest that this might be something that you referees should consider.

One -5 minutes to 10 minutes
Two 11 minutes to 20 minutes
Three 21 minutes to 30 minutes
Four 31 minutes to 40 minutes
Five 41 minutes to end of the first half
HALFTIME Review and discussion of performance
Block Six 45 minutes to 55 minutes
Block Seven 46 minutes to 65 minutes
Block Eight 66 minutes to 75 minutes
Block Nine 76 minutes to 85 minutes
Block Ten 86 minutes to end of the game

The objective is to ensure that your game management, concentration and teamwork will deliver a performance that reflects your aim and a positive outcome to the match,

So, take the lead up to the game following your arrival at the stadium with your colleagues.

This is an important period because preparation prevents poor performance.

Walk your team out into the field and understand the geography of the pitch.

Check the nets, ground markings and playing surface.

Go through your pre-match discussions briefly for the first time.

Use the warm-up and that time before kick-off to develop team spirit and confidence with each other, keep them informed that you are a team player and a positive performance from each member of your team is important,

Your final pre-match instructions are briefly repeated and just before the bell, you motivate your team.

So back to the ten-minute game plan.

Block One The five minutes before kick-off to minute Ten of the match

Players often approach this period of the game with a high intensity often reacting to the crowd and the manager’s motivation and build-up to the game over several days.

You the referee need to maintain tight control to underpin your authority, particularly in this opening period. If you are too liberal then there is a risk that players will lose some of their own discipline and test you by putting in that reckless challenge thinking that they will get away with it later in the game, ‘Sorry Ref, First One’. Important to achieve a good 10yards at that first free-kick, Management of the position of the thrower will all help your game control in the latter stages.

With the game progressing towards the end of the first ten-minute period you now involve your colleagues to deliver their view of how they see the game taking place from their off-field view.

Clearly, with a communication kit, your Assistants opinion can be relayed to you verbally.

They may state the following: –

a) Keep it tight – Same again next ten

b) Looks good suggest you free up a little allowing the game to flow more.

If you have no verbal communication keeping it tight would be an understated visual signal between you and the referee.

a) Keep it tight would be signalled with a clenched fist and an up and down movement with the hand-arm at waist-high level

b) Free it up and let it flow would be a hand-arm signal again at waist-high level doing a circular motion with your hand arm

Managing a game in ten-minute blocks is an efficient approach and this process of communicating with your team helps game control and aids your concentration.

Now if during any of the ten-minute blocks the game becomes tense and player behaviour is poor, dissent starts to increase then you go back into your tight control mood. You might then blow for every free-kick and not be liberal with your use of advantage.

You, in fact, go hunting and your interference level increases and your tolerance levels close down until control is again maintained.

I often when coaching referees state that “They need to put their foot on the ball” slow things down has part of your game management.

Through your Authority and Positive body language, your awareness increases and you demonstrate a step-change in your approach to the game once again until it calms down.

A substitution, a yellow card challenge, a penalty kick award, a tight offside call, or even a refereeing error can heighten the negative reactions by players. Nowadays VAR intervention could create a loss of concentration and a momentary loss of confidence if you are requested to change a big decision.

In the final five minutes plus added time at the end of each half then you go back into safety refereeing mode.

I always said to my colleagues that you are appointed to a match is two 45 minutes plus games.

It is important to have a conversation with your colleagues inviting then to discuss how they see the game during the half time period. Have they detected any raised tensions between any players?

How do they see your approach? Get them to open up as part of your planning and preparation for that second half yes that second match

Often a team that is losing will make a tactical change and you might come up against the player who has just been roasted by his manager and he might just want to vent his frustrations either in your direction or in his next challenge on an opponent.

In that second half, you continue to use the ten-minute block procedure, allowing your colleagues to communicate how they see your control of the proceedings from the touchline.

And yes, if this weekend you are in the local park with no Assistants then you can still manage your games by operating a ten-minute block approach

Keith Hackett

Referee Expert
Senior Consultant