Mentoring – how to create a top class match official.

I have been involved in refereeing in some shape or form in Ireland and South Africa since 1970/71. Now to use an old cliché, that’s not yesterday.

I was active for 25 years until I was asked by the Premier Soccer League management in South Africa, where I lived and worked for 14 years from 1985 to 1999, to take over the running and control of refereeing. This I did reluctantly as I still wanted to stay active.

Since then I have been mentoring and coaching match officials.

Probably the highlight of any referee mentor/coach is to witness his students, firstly get that all-important FIFA badge, and then be selected to officiate at a World Cup Finals.

This I achieved on two occasions each time with South African guys, one of them Achmet Salie who ran the line in the 1998 final between France and Brazil in Paris France.

I’ve been asked many times how does one mentor/coach match officials?

For sure everyone’s approach is different and many will disagree with my methods. I was never really a conformist to the “book” in the true sense of the word and I’m still not, but IT WORKS FOR ME and my students.

Most times guys would come to me and ask for help to improve their standards and help them climb the ladder of “success.”

My first words to these individuals are – are you sure you’re ready for this? Are you sure you have the commitment? Are you sure you will do exactly as I say? Do you have 100% dedication? Are you prepared to listen?

If the answer to those questions is yes, I then set about instigating a “regime” that will, and has in the past, lead to success.

The following “ingredients” are required, in my opinion:

  • commitment
  • dedication
  • discipline
  • hard work
  • listen, don’t talk or argue
  • trust, and
  • 100% effort

Mix ‘em all together and you have the makings of a top class match official.


In years gone by it was difficult to give commitment because guys had to hold down a day job as well as refereeing on weekends and sometimes during the week. Today, with the introduction of professional refereeing, albeit in the major professional leagues, it is now easier because that is their full time job.

It can be argued that the guys in the lower leagues where experience is gained don’t have the luxury of full time professionalism and have to perform their refereeing duties while having a day job. Well, there’s no easy way around that one.


Refereeing, if you want to get to the top, is not a quiet stroll in the park on a Sunday morning where running around the centre circle of a pitch is sufficient to complete your duty of “handling a match.”

I remember an old mentor of mine telling me way back then that every referee should get to the four corner flags at least once in a game. That’s when we didn’t have linesmen, or assistant referees, as they are known today. In fact, there are many occasions today when referees have to handle the game on their own.

Dedication also includes turning up for a game wherever and whenever appointed and not taking the easy way out by phoning in sick because the weather is cold or wet, or because you have to go shopping with the wife.


Discipline includes many facets from training, to eating, to sleeping and much more.

I have come across prospective match officials who start with good intentions only to fall by the wayside a short time later. I have no time for people who waste my time with lame excuses and false promises. You’re either in it for the long haul or you’re not.

If it’s for you, I’ll get you to the top if you’re prepared to work and give your all.

Hard Work

here is no shortcut to success in any profession today, not unless you are born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth. For the rest of us it’s hard work and that can mean long hours with total commitment. This includes the many meetings and fitness tests that are required to be undertaken.

Listen, don’t talk or argue

To some, or many, that may sound dictatorial. Well it is my friend, and I make no apologies for it. I don’t want people questioning my ways or methods. I don’t run a debating society, nor is democracy an option.

I’m there to make sure you get to the top of the tree and to be blunt, it’s my way, or the highway – PERIOD.

I will give you all the sound advice required to be successful. If you’re not prepared to accept my way then take up some other past time – less strenuous and stressful.


I ask only that you trust me. I will not send you down the wrong road. I will never put you in danger. And I will always be honest with you even though sometimes it may be blunt and perhaps hurtful, but rest assured I will never lie to you.

100% effort

I don’t ask, I demand 100% from my match officials regardless of what game they are given to officiate at. No game is too small or insignificant.

Referees who want me to help them will subscribe to MY rules as far as training and development is concerned. Any deviation from those rules will mean immediate expulsion from the programme.


Many will disagree with these methods. Others will say that this type of regime is too strict. That’s fine. If that’s you point of view then we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Categories: General

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