The Hard Life Of A Walking Football Referee

Just refereed a county league game. Everyone’s pleased to see you turn up and explain a few rules, have a bit of banter and flip a coin. Within moments fifty percent of the field don’t like you. That carries on pretty much the remainder of the game. Calls for ball up (when it’s barely at the neck,) running, handball, our ball, any ball… At least one man per team is the given caller for anything and everything. Always looking for an advantage, sway the ref, reminders for fouls and not giving their way.

“I wasn’t running ref,” “nothing wrong with that challenge,” “come on ref!”

Bouyed by what they’ve seen all of their TV football life and from games long gone by, out they come, antics of old, same old traits and habits. Not everyone, just one or two. They can’t help it any more than the runners. And here lies the biggest problem.

“Me running?” is the usual recourse when pulled up. Maybe not, but it certainly wasn’t walking. Some players just cannot do it or get it. Others don’t care and push it to the max. What’s a ref to do? Caught between no flow and let it go, game pace is pretty much determined by the first minute. Get that wrong in the early stage and the game is ramped up slightly. Ignore it and the game has gone. The players have themselves set the tone.

And what of a competitive game that simply cannot be controlled by players and those that officiate?

Is there a chance for the competitive game when it seriously needs re-considerations?

Generally the league game officiating was met with approval on the running side, but in truth, there was so much more room to clamp down on movement that defied ‘walking.’ The players are just not ready or willing to strip the game back to what it should be. Vets is too quick – and primarily for the 35-45 year olds – and with nothing other than a walking game to exploit, here we are, unable to effect a creditable and sustainable game in its present state.

Minimal contact was the format. Players went for the ball at the opponent’s feet. Nothing wrong with that. There didn’t seem to be any issues until the ball changed direction and someone hops about having sustained a knock. What seemed innocuous produced winces and whines. It was difficult to actually see the contact when four feet and a ball are in such close proximity and one is not. The whistle remained in hand and nothing was evident to the contrary in the minimal contact game. There was a legal allowance for some contact. Nothing aggressive or reckless, but how is it possible to see where players claim to be hurt in tackling if they are allowed to tackle with minimum force? Well it clearly and simply is not possible. If tackling is permitted and the degree of the result of impact cannot be determined, then there has to be an acceptance that there is bound to be a few sore ankles and toes. All the more reason for the players to finally accept that the non-contact game has to be preferable. It is just simply unacceptable for a game to allow players of senior ages, with varying physical conditions and fragility, to be having any type of force exerted upon them with the game at its present pace. The only pace required in the game today is the one where players come to terms with what they think they want and what they need.

Steve Rich, WF referee

Taken from Walking Football United

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