The proposed name change of Wokingham and Emmbrook Football Club to its original title of Wokingham Town brought memories of refereeing them in the past.
One game also showed me why players would be helped by learning more about the Laws of the Game.
My games at their ground, squeezed in between the two railway lines, were always cup ties. This is because I refereed the Isthmian League and in those days, Wokingham were in the Athenian League, now defunct. It was one of those cup games that also gave me a little dilemma.
Not so good a memory is the very cramped changing room for the referee and two assistants, and no separate facilities. This is something many football clubs forget when it comes to referees.
Back to my dilemma and my belief that players could help themselves by learning a little more about the laws. One of the goalkeepers was a good kicker of the ball and his goal kicks would land well inside the opponents’ half.
The opposing captain however, insisted on calling up his team mates to stand on the halfway line. The goalkeepers’ goal kicks going over their heads, were chased down by the attacking players.
It was fortunate for the defending side that that they didn’t score. The defending captain however always made gestures at my linesman in that half for not waving his flag for offside.
It’s said the difference between football referees and rugby referees is that in rugby, the referee is a facilitator who advises as well as adjudicates, whilst football referees are arbitrators who penalise those they judge to have transgressed.
It’s many years since I refereed a rugby match, but watching the recent rugby World Cup, where referees for instance, often pointed out to players to get back onside, I think that is a fair description.
It wasn’t my job to advise the captain that you can’t be offside from a goal kick. If the other side took advantage of his lack of knowledge which could lead his side to losing the game, it would be his fault.
Also, the other team might see such advice as favouring his side. On the other hand, I was getting concerned that his rants at my linesman would become more offensive, which I could have stopped with a simple explanation.
Fortunately, the club’s coach finally shouted out to his captain, who then stopped ushering his team mates on to the halfway line at corners.
But was this an occasion where I should have acted more like a rugby referee?
By Dick Sawdon Smith