Keith Hackett on Youth Referees in America
World class, long time referee Keith Hackett started officiating on the sidelines in the 1960s in England and 1960 is considered one of the top 100 referees of all time in a list maintained by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS). A FIFA referee, Hackett has had the honor of refereeing at some of the most important soccer matches in history including the FA Cup Final at Wembley, European Championships as well as countless EPL games of Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, QPR, West Ham United as well as at the Olympics. Hackett is the wisdom and wit behind answers in the cult classic cartoon quiz You Are The Ref drawn by the amazing artist Paul Trevillion, which has run in The Observer newspaper. With a series of great books and a new website, Hackett shares his passion and insights on the world of soccer also with our SoccerToday readers.
As one of the most experienced referees in the world, Hackett knows that to be a great ref, one needs a quick sense of humor and a thick skin. It also helps to remember that the players are not the enemy. When players approach the referee to question a call, Hackett has advised that a ref could respond to a player with a quick quip ….
Hackett told the Telegraph last year, “If a player says, ‘That was an awful decision ref, are you sure?’ and straight of the cuff I’d say, ‘As sure as when you had that shot and missed by a mile.”
What else does Hackett think is important to know? While it is impossible to condense the wisdom earned in more than half a century into a few words, Hackett knows once you become a referee, you will never look at a soccer match the same way – and that some decisions will haunt you forever. Yes, the parents and fans may hate the referee for a specific call, but never forget that being a referee is highly focused hard work. But has a referee changed since Hackett started? Yes, of course – the impact of technology has changed and is changing the game forever.
What does Hackett really think of soccer in America and how the sport is progressing? Are we doing enough to help referees? Here is what Hackett told Diane Scavuzzo this weekend.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the biggest problem with soccer in the USA? Has soccer improved? If so, how?
Keith Hackett: I would like to see the introduction of a Pyramid System that allows soccer teams to move up and down the pyramid. At the pinnacle is the Professional game cascading down through various tiers to the grassroots levels.
The same opportunity must exist for referees whereby young referees can move up the pyramid able if they are good enough to eventually join the ranks of PRO Referee.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the role of a referee in American youth soccer? Has it changed since you first came to the USA?
Keith Hackett: Since my first visit to America in 1981 to act has a guest referee on the North American Soccer League (NASL) I have watched from afar the meteoric rise of the game. I have had the opportunity to stand in front of many referees of all ages who officiate games in America. In fact, I have visited the the CALSOUTH area many times. The referees I have watched are full of enthusiasm for the game and share my passion for officiating. These referees deal with different challenges, and through their hard work and dedication, they promote our great game across America
Regardless of what side of the Atlantic, all referees MUST act as the facilitator to ensure that two competing teams play within the laws of the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is youth soccer different in the USA than in England?
Keith Hackett: The skill sets of young players is amazing and coaching in America well advanced, however I do not see enough activity in Coaching and Mentoring referees in order to accelerate to the top echelons of the game. I believe U.S. Soccer needs to ensure that a proper pathway for the development of referees is in place. I would be happy to share with them details of the UEFA Referee Convention Document, which I helped to write.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do most soccer fans or soccer parents really respect the role of a referee in youth soccer today?
Keith Hackett: We all love soccer, but not everyone can be a player. Some of us have enjoyed playing the game and can extend our involvement by taking up the whistle and becoming a referee. Refereeing will give you hours of enjoyment, but be aware it can also absorb all of your available time in your search to become a better official.
Standing on the touchline about to watch members of your family play in a game and the call goes out: “Can anyone officiate this match the referee has not turned up.” You become the instant hero when you say, “I can do that.” And, you pull out your whistle and let the game begin.
Diane Scavuzzo: Are referees effected by parents on the sideline? Any advice for young referees just starting out?
Keith Hackett: Of course. It is important not to be discouraged by aggressive parents on the touchline who can spoil your enjoyment and those of the players. A referee who is pro-active rather than re-active can influence greatly how players and parents behave.
Here is my advice: a referee who is fair, and an accurate decision-maker going about their duty applying good communication skills will contribute in a positive manner, so that everyone enjoys their involvement by playing and watching.
Diane Scavuzzo: Parent sideline behavior – how are soccer parents in England?
Keith Hackett: There is a campaign in England called DON’T X THE LINE — It is simple in its execution. Parents are only allowed to stand on one side of the field of play. One yard from the touchline a series of posts a yard high are fixed in the ground every ten yards. Then a tape with the message of RESPECT THE GAME, RESPECT EACH OTHER, RESPECT THE REFEREE is attached to the posts and creates a barrier and message to parents to behave.
It is simple and it works. Parents should allow the coach to coach and all parents should do is encourage their children who are participating in the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: How should parents treat a ref?
Keith Hackett: WITH RESPECT – THEY ARE HUMAN AND DO MAKE MISTAKES. We must be tolerant!
Keith Hackett is a world class ref and the author of You Are the Ref, the Ultimate Illustrated Guide to the Laws of Football and the new book, You Are the Umpire. The books are available on Amazon.com. The amazing illustrations are by Paul Trevillion.
You Are The Ref is a cult classic comic strip in England. SoccerToday is thrilled to bring this to our American soccer audience and share these stunning portraits of soccer stars from all eras. For anyone who has ever questioned a ref’s eyesight or grappd with a clearly ‘wrong’ call, now it is your turn! According to David James, “Anyone who loves the game knows You Are The Ref. Paul Trevillion’s brillant art has been around for generations!”
Any opinions expressed in this column shall not be construed as advice on Laws of the Game, and may not represent the official position of US Soccer, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF), CalSouth, the Presidio League, or any affiliates thereof unless specified with appropriate attribution.