Every competitive football match has three important parts. Before, during and after the match. In practice however, the temptation has been for referees to pay very little attention to the first part; that is before. Referees arrive late and sometimes individually, although they are obliged to arrive two hours before the start of the game. Why? They have a lot of important duties to perform.
Players’ time of arrival, facilities for parking and their dressing rooms are important in the scheme of the game. They must be suitable, comfortable and generally in good order. There are many times visiting teams refuse to accept and use their designated dressing room for various reasons. It should be the duty of the match officials to inspect and ensure that the dressing room is acceptable, up to standard and is as suitable as that of the home team.
Again, it is important that the match officials visit and inspect all toilet facilities for both players and spectators. Such facilities, surprisingly including those at our national stadia, are not well-kept and maintained. It is the duty of the referee to include in his match report the state and condition of such facilities.
Again, the early arrival of the match officials enables them to observe the entry into the stadium and assess if there are any difficulties that the visiting team may encounter at the gates. They may be harassed and delayed at the gate. The GFA guidelines require both teams use the same gate to enter the stadium.
For the pre-match conference, normally held in the morning of the match, referees are required to be present too. The pre-match conference serves as the opportunity for the referee to see to the security arrangements. Furthermore, the conference provides the forum for the referees to advice and indeed admonish both teams and their players of what to expect during the match.
In seeing to the security arrangements for the match the referee should bear in mind that there must be adequate security personnel for the entire population at the stadium. In most instances only the expected number of security men are mentioned. The referee must note this and cross-check with the officer-in-charge just before the start of the match to ensure that the declared number are present at the commencement of the match.
On many occasions, referees are promised that some of the security personnel would arrive to make the promised number. The referee should not agree to this, and his position should be made clearly and publicly during the match conference. The questions about security must be well answered before the match.
I chaired a pre-match conference and I was surprised when the referees declared that they had nothing to say when given the opportunity. This is wrong and is a show of lack of professionalism and a display of mediocrity.
Referees need the co-operation of team officials and players to manage the game. Some referees mistakenly regard pre-match meetings as only for the declaration and inspection of players’ kits and colours. When the match begins and during the ninety-minute period, referees have little or nothing to communicate verbally with the players and their managers. It is before the match that he must give all the instructions and do the talking. The whistle will talk during the match.