Ray Bigger was a referee in the inaugural season of the Premier League (1992-93) before his professional life took him to Singapore, where today he is a partner in a sales and marketing consultancy. Ray has also appeared as a pundit on ESPN STAR Sports football shows in Asia, offering his insight as a former referee. Although a Crystal Palace fan, he very kindly agreed to answer questions from ToffeeWeb contributors.
I asked each of you to submit a question, and a small bio about yourself to help all of us know a bit more about each other. Some asked some, er tricky, questions, and many asked several, and to his credit Ray didn't dodge any! Readers questions are enclosed in quotes, Ray's answers in blue, and bios or a couple of my own comments are in italics.
(so secretive he didn't offer a bio about himself)
“I'd like to ask if does he genuinely believe refs are scared to give penalties at the bigger grounds such as Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge or The Emirates? Maybe not scared, but find themselves under more scrutiny from the bigger-name managers like Fergie or Mourinho, and it may affect his decision?”
At that level of refereeing you simply do not have the time to think about who you might or might not upset with a decision. You call it as you see it.
Paul, 33 from Liverpool. I first kissed a girl when I was 12 but cant remember her name. My favourite colour is blue (of course). I like dogs and long walks on the beach. Seriously, 20 years season ticket, favourite player is Dave Watson.
“The offside rule is a pet hate of mine; I wish it would go back to the old rule of: if anyone is off side then everyone is off side. Ask if he thinks refs would like it to go back that way, it would make their job easier.”
The law change was a positive in that it allowed more goals to stand whereas in the past many goals were chalked off purely because a player was in an offside position i.e. a 30 yard rocket that goes in but a player in an offside position was given offside. No law change will remove the tight decision as that is the referee's opinion.
“With high balls into the box why isn't no one is allowed within 5 yards of the keeper or its a foul even though keepers can nearly punch someone's head off and nothing is said?”
Once a goalkeeper leaves the ground i.e. two feet off the floor any contact is going to be suspect. Any player who charges the goalkeeper will get penalised. Players need to know how to jump against a keeper which is almost side by side and keep their eyes firmly on the ball.
“Another off side rule I don't understand. When 2 attackers are clear of the defence is one allowed to play a forward pass to the other? I've seen this loads of times when one player has played the ball across the box but the ball moves forward as well and its never given as off side.”
Providing the player to whom the ball passed is behind the ball when it is passed to him he is onside even if the ball is played forward.
“Do refs look to even up mistakes they have made in a match?”
I would hope not but globally I'm sure it happens on other continents where some referees' well-being might be in danger. When a Referee makes a mistake, admitting it and moving on generally is accepted
“Do refs have it in for certain players? Like when Duncan used to get booked for jumping; this happens a lot to Fellaini as well.”
Some players never learn and some let their egos get in the way... hence a yellow card becomes inevitable. Most players and managers have little idea of the Laws of the Game – let alone an accurate interpretation.
“We have retrospective bans for violent behaviour but not for diving, why? It can't be right that the powers that be won't stand for a player to attack another but cheating is okay. Surely cheating is the worst thing any sportsman can do but nothing is done about it.”
The FA's ruling is they will only step in and retrospectively look at taking action where the referee confirms his view was blocked or it was off the ball and out of vision. If he says he saw the incident but decided on no action, the FA will not step in. I think they should step in where there is a clear mistake.
“There's shit loads more but its getting late.” (Matt-note – thank Christ!)
(Another man of mystery!)
“Do referees have to declare if they are a supporter of a certain team? Also, how is the allocation of referees worked out — is it random or geographical?”
The PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Board) handle everything with regard to referees in the BPL. Most referees have local clubs where they go for any treatment for injures and do talks to players pre-season to talk about law changes. Other than friendlies, they would not be appointed to a local club. Appointments are made based on the marks awarded at each game by the official assessor who is a former referee, an independent league assessor who is an ex-player, ex-manager or ex-coach, and the club marks. The top marked referees get the top games.
Crazy Evertonian who drives the missus mad but she loves me and so puts up with the craziness. Living in the North West.
“With people from all around the country supporting teams that are far from where they reside, is there any point in referees from a particular City or area not being allowed to officiate the teams from their local area? For example, A referee may be from London but support a Northern club, but he may be appointed to referee his particular favourites. What are the rules in the modern game relating to this? Also, how much scrutiny does a professional referee's shareholdings and business dealing's undergo?”
Referees have to disclose any ‘connection' with a club that would be seen to diminish their impartiality.
Professional artist; semi-retired (78). The racing scene, horses, ladies with big hats etc. Ex-Airforce and ex-Army. Rock Ferry lad, now in Hoylake.
“I've never been able to get my head around the constant and sometimes deliberate harassment of the fourth official by protesting managers. He is not the referee. He cannot influence the referee. What is all this about? Does the fourth official chat with the referee at half-time?”
All four officials and the match assessor are wired up so they can communicate quickly and effectively. The 4th official is usually a referee anyway and they are expected to deal with any touchline issues. The referee is always at liberty to intervene on his own or at the request of the 4th official. I agree, there should be sterner action taken against errant managers but the FA is not known for taking strong action when it is really needed.
“If the keeper is wearing a cap and it is blown by the wind into face of an opposing player, causing him to miss a chance, what will the referee do about it?”
Probably get him a hair grip! Seriously, no action would be taken as no law has been broken; just one of those things. If the goalie took the hat off and threw it at the attacker, that is a different matter.
Australian in Canada, first time as a supporter I've experienced a different manager, active-MOB member since 2009.
“With goal line technology and, inevitably, video replays coming into the game, should refs feel undermined or grateful?”
Probably grateful... as are umpires at Wimbledon. The speed at which the ball travels is too fast for the human eye; if technology helps get it right, so much the better. FIFA resisted this for 10 years.
Schoolboy questions perhaps, but hey, I'm 40, a romantic, live 200 miles from the ground and must have an autistic streak that makes me want to draw up lists!
“What were your most and least favourite grounds to officiate at and how did Goodison stack up?”
West Ham and Ipswich were regarded as the most official friendly grounds as the board directors always took the view the job was never easy. I didn't get to Goodison unfortunately.
“What were your best and worst decisions, and why?”
Best decision all of them – Worst decision – never made one! Seriously, being close but not too close when making a decision as players were more ready to accept them. Worst was giving a corner which looked solid from the angle I was at which I learnt afterwards bypassed the keeper by 10 yards or more. The player reactions also told me I got that wrong!
“If you could pick any player and say 'I reffed a game with him in it', who would you put up in lights?”
Probably not one specifically but a lot of players who came up afterwards and said thank you and wouldn't do my job for all tea in China. If I had to choose one it might be Gary Lineker...
“Amongst refs, is there a 'Best Ref of All Time'? And of the current crop, who do you think is the best on the circuit?”
I would go for Mark Clattenburg or Howard Webb. Both very fit, manage players well both on and off the ball, and get the vast majority of their decisions right
(Matt-note – to be fair to Ray, he's probably not aware of “that” game in 2007!)
Born and Bred in Liverpool 7, watching Everton since we beat Plymouth 8-4 in the old Second Division, now residing in Rutland. Clattenburg should never be allowed to referee Everton games again, he's a disgrace, mistakes happen, bias is institutional. I ask the obvious questions, are referees favouring the bigger teams, especially at home and the answer is and always was, Yes. Check how many penalties the incomparable Vernon was able to slot home at Goodison when we were truly a great team.
“Why, oh why, don't referees penalise players, particularly defenders for holding and blocking? Thirdly, a particular bugbear of mine, why is there no longer an offense for obstruction, has the rule about obstruction been written out of the rules for football? It used to merit an indirect free-kick.”
Obstruction is still there. I would like to see the blocking and holding you refer to especially in the penalty area penalised even if games ended 10-6. The problem is the BPL and FA would never support the referees so the problem goes on.
I'm 55 and a 3rd generation Blueblood, born in Childwall (well Broadgreen 'ozzy), live in Tuebrook and Maghull now, worship Ball Harvey & Kendall. Miss Arteta like an arm.
In the early 90s, I worked in Liverpool Social Services with a guy who was a burgeoning top-flight referee. He reffed a game between Wimbledon and Sheff Utd when Vinny Jones was there.
We were talking about how refs are "received" by various clubs, the "hospitality and good will" shown and the levels to which various clubs would extend this. I was horrified.
He told me that the catering at Old Trafford was "unbelievable" yet the treatment at Goodison Park for refs was like that of a monk (shepherded in and isolated, offered a light meal pre-match and a meal post-game).
The OT experience of one well known ref was jaw dropping. This referee had completed a game at OT, and after having been wined and dined returned to find that his car would not start. Returning to the ground, he was informed that a club sponsor was happy to ensure that the car was looked after and repaired but the work would be carried out the following day (despite being a Sunday). "Fortunately" a room was available in a hotel where a sponsor's guest was not present. A "hostess" drove the referee to the hotel and he was duly booked in and the car repaired. The costs were borne by the sponsors (the hotel and the motor repairs), in the morning, the "hostess" collected the referee and drove him to collect his repaired car.
My colleague thought that this "generous action" on behalf of Man Utd was most laudable and kind, he added "You don't get that kind of treatment everywhere you go". I agreed.
How bloody convenient, how often?
“In your time as a referee how often did "The Big Clubs", embrace you? Who offered the "warmest embrace" and who treated you with monastic isolation?”
If Arsenal felt you had a bad game, it was well known the tea would be cold or didn't turn up and the sandwiches arrived curled up. Generally, the reception was pretty good all round and, as I said in an earlier response, West Ham and Ipswich were the best. Maybe it had something to do with both club's run by families – The Cearns and Cobbold families respectively.
Great Great Grandad played for the Toffees in 1901/02, brought up in the North West now living in Norfolk.
“Why don't referees book everyone that gets in their face? That would soon stop the haranguing of match officials to get decisions changed.”
The FA is weak – it's as simple as that – and haven't learnt the lessons from Rugby referees. Argue and the ball goes forward 10 yards. It was trialled but Fifa killed it off... no surprises there then!
First, Matt thanks for putting in the effort. A great idea. And Mr Bigger, thank you for participating.
American Evertonian, I am, of 4 years standing. But have had a soft spot for over a dozen years because it was the one Big Club to give American players a chance.
“My questions has to do with the increase in athleticism and pace since the advent of the Premier League and the accompanying increase in diving to get a call.
Do you think the league should go to two referees on the pitch to be better able to keep up with how fast the players are today?
I believe much of the diving/dropping like gun-shot victims, then miraculously recovering once they get a call would be cut down as an officials would be better able to stay nearer the ball at all times.”
There are already 3 officials and a 4th official so reducing the active number to 2 probably will not help. In Uefa matches there are 5 officials the extra 2 officials are stationed one behind each goal. I agree with you on stern action which would benefit the game but the FA hasn't the backbone to strike a blow for common sense and holding players and clubs accountable.
Right, I'm Ross, I live in Childwall in Liverpool and my favourite player I've ever seen in a Blues shirt during my short life is a certain Mr Cahill.
“I would like to ask Mr Bigger, as he used to work at ESPN Star Sports in Asia, who he thinks will win the AFC Champions League this year? As well asking whether he thinks Belgium have a serious chance of winning the World Cup if they qualify?”
I'm not so involved with the AFC so can't really comment and referees should never guess! Belgium over the years have on occasions been the bridesmaid but never the bride. I don't see that changing. I do have the greatest respect for the Bundesliga and the German FA. They have a football structure from grass roots to the National Team that is the envy of most leagues countries in the world, you saw that when they walloped England 4-1. That was no fluke
“Staying on the Asian football route with your Star Sports work, do you think an Asian nation will ever have an opportunity to win the World Cup?”
Japan or Korea and Australia if they count as Asia are the only three who would be in the frame as outside bets.
“Who was the hardest player to referee?”
Not one specifically but in general that handful of egotists, more of them around now, who thought they were above everyone else. They were characterised by the fact they would not listen, then complain when they were yellow-carded.
“Finally, If you could have refereed any match in the history of football, which would it be and why?”
(Matt-note – sorry Ross, he seemed to have missed that last one – pity)
Blue for 52 years, live in Warrington now but still passionate about the blues. Season ticket-holder in Park End.
“Why is the League allowing Mark Clattenburg to get away with refereeing again at Goodison?”
Regardless of what went on before, referees will be allocated games accordingly.
(Matt-note, as mentioned before, not sure Ray is aware of “that” game. Also, I thought the only game he reffed since he came back was two seasons ago away at Villa?)
“Do referees live in awe of certain players?”
Not that I am aware, I certainly didn't.
“Do certain players' reputations go before them?”
They probably think so and players do not always help themselves.
“Do referees review their performance after a game?”
There is a comprehensive assessment system made up of an official match assessor, an independent assessor, and the club marks the referee as well. There are regular coaching sessions where video is used extensively to provide further coaching. I received approx. 100 hours of coaching a season — more than managers in the commercial world receive in a lifetime!
“Do referees try to 'even things out'?”
Not that I am aware because it would show.
“Would refs welcome some sort of 'decision review system'?”
There is one run by the FA if a player appeals a yellow or red card.
“Do refs allow abuse from the crowd to get under their skin?”
To be honest you don't notice the crowd of 40,000. You might notice the crowd of 1,500 because you can hear everything.
“Have refs ever awarded a penalty based purely on the volume of appeal from the home crowd?”
Maybe overseas but not in the BPL.
“How much backchat / abuse should a referee be prepared to accept from a player?”
In my opinion, if it is just banter, ignore it. More than that, a yellow card. The problem is too many yellow cards for that or even a red would not be welcomed by the powers that be.
“How has Phil Dowd lost 2 stone in weight in the close season!”
Fell off his wallet. Seriously he combined a strict training and diet regime.
Chatham in Kent, Evertonian since 1973, think football is like my other sport of pro-cycling used to be - rotten to the core and needs help.
“I wonder if Ray thinks that referees should be wired up to a 4th official locked away under the stands with TV screens who can suggest the ref takes a look at any decision he may have got wrong. Ref can look at screen on edge of pitch opposite side to the benches and review if prompted. Still the ref's decision is final, but gets help from the sidelines to prevent errors, as in Rugby Union.
I think refs need a bit of help to make consistently correct decisions in what is now a very fast-paced sport. For example, Mendes's goal at Old Trafford for Spurs in 2005 – linesman could never have run as fast as the ball travelled to know if it had crossed the line, yet the system I am suggesting would have given the ref a chance to review and give the correct decision.”
Well we have goal line technology now long overdue so we will see how it goes. It was called into action in the Chelsea v Hull game and the right result ensued – ‘No Goal'.
(edit – in reply to Karl above, so not part of his original questions!)
Karl, I've tried refereeing - and it's bloody difficult even at amateur level! On the whole, I think refs are reasonably good – yes, that's right, you read it correctly! The speed of the game is too fast to get all decisions right but I'd like to hear from a ref whether they feel some sort of decision review system, based on a limited number of challenges per side, would undermine them. I'm also interested to know how aspects of human nature (i.e. being in awe of personalities, the influence of the crowd, snide comments from players, managers etc) affect the decision-making process.
I am comfortable with just goal-line technology. Too many stoppages would disrupt the game flow plus, and more important, managers would use a review to also disrupt the flow of the game. Most players/managers agree it evens itself out over the course of a season.
“Who was the most obnoxious player you ever refereed in a match?”
No-one I particular but in general the players who believed they were much better than they were, would not listen and tended to treat everyone as inferior. Yellow card to the fore usually put them back in their prams!
Blue since the mid 1950s, started going the match in 1959, exiled scouser in North Wales.
“Ray, what laws would YOU like changing to make the game easier to referee? And also what changes do you think would make the game a better spectacle for the fans?”
Re-introduce the change that Fifa ordered the FA to stop, ie, move a free kick forward 10 yards if a player refused to retire the required 10 yards; allow the referee to award a penalty goal, as in rugby there is a penalty try. Awarding a goal is the ultimate punishment against a team and might encourage defenders to back off from fouling if there is a chance the attacker might miss.
“Do you think the changes to the offside law has made the game better and do you like the idea of goalkeepers being able to choose which side they take a goal kick from instead of having to take the kick from the side where the ball went out of play. In my opinion, this allows keepers to waste time within the laws of the game. Wrong, surely? “
If the referee sees time-wasting, he has the ultimate sanction, namely adding time on and a yellow card.
(Matt-note – the offside law question was, I think, answered in an earlier reply)
Born in Walton 55 yrs ago have lived and breathed EFC all that time and will do so till I pop me clogs.
“Should there be a ref in each half?”
No it wouldn't work as well as the current system.
“Are most football coaches as thick as two short planks?”
Four short planks...
“Is football losing the working man through cost?”
I think we are well down that track already. TV dominates.
“Is the FA unfit for purpose with all the blazers and petty fiefdom types involved?
Sadly yes . They have had – what is it now – six CEOs in 10 years... Out of touch.
“Is Fifa corrupt?”
Fifa does a remarkably good job at helping people reach that conclusion. Blatter has in the main been a disaster. Jack Warner's behaviour screamed for action but nothing forthcoming and the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 – I rest my case.
“Are modern refs too concerned with what MotD et al say about them instead of just getting on with the job?”
If the MotD pundits said anything worth listening to, they might!
“Is demotion to lower league games for refs an absolute joke because we all make mistakes and what earthly purpose does it serve other than hanging the ref out?”
The FA are going out of their way to make refs accountable. They should turn the mirror on themselves.
“Would you ever advocate refs retaliating to the horrendous abuse from coaches/ players by telling them to 'fuck right off or they'll get some'?”
Why stoop to the gutter level to join them? I used to smile at them as it was worth seeing the veins in their necks almost burst out of their necks.
“What about Clattenburg's wig? Should the police be called? That's a new one for me.”
There was a ref whose toupee blew off in the wind many years ago. He wasn't fazed, he just picked it up and put it in his pocket.
Born in Birkenhead 52 years ago. Been in South Africa for almost 40 years, rabid Blue like everyone else here.
“Why do certain teams seem to get away with the constant surrounding of the referee every time a decision goes against them (Man Utd, Liverpool & Chelsea being the chief culprits), yet certain individuals receive yellow cards for dissent for far lesser transgressions. I can't recall Ryan Giggs ever being booked for dissent, yet he's always in the ref's face. Surely this would be easy to stamp out by booking the whole lot of them every time it occurred ...... Yes, there would be a load of red cards initially, but it would stop soon enough..”
The FA can charge clubs for misconduct for not controlling their players when they surround the referee. It normally leads to a fine which is of course peanuts. A flurry of red cards would solve the problem but the FA hasn't the backbone to support referees in that regard
Thanks to all who contributed questions, and special thanks for Ray for taking the time to answer them – including the ones I personally thought you wouldn't go near! – Matt
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728 Posted 28/08/2013 at 08:00:36
744 Posted 28/08/2013 at 09:24:25
Ray raises an excellent point in one response, where he mentions that "Most players and managers have little idea of the Laws of the Game – let alone an accurate interpretation." The one that absolutely does my head in is the old chestnut where the alleged 'pundits' in the studio always say " ...... he got the slightest of touches on the ball", which in their eyes means it isn't a foul...... Completely wrong, but it is tantamount to farting against thunder, as it seems to be widely accepted throughout the game as fact.
The only time the ball is mentioned in Law 12 is with reference to handball
746 Posted 28/08/2013 at 09:42:54
760 Posted 28/08/2013 at 09:56:50
The answer on diving is a joke. The FA will look retrospectively if the ref's view is blocked... yet how would he know if his view is blocked that it is a dive?
Refs need to remember they're in charge and players actions will change as a result. They also need to grow some when two players come together. Just because one hits the deck, or even both, doesn't mean they need to blow their whistle. Sometimes the best decision is to just play on.
876 Posted 28/08/2013 at 16:42:41
877 Posted 28/08/2013 at 16:33:16
881 Posted 28/08/2013 at 17:13:56
Ray - as Matt eludes, your final answer is somewhat....erm...controversial in these parts but fair play - many thanks for your time on this! Great stuff.
973 Posted 28/08/2013 at 19:00:04
977 Posted 28/08/2013 at 19:03:42
Admittedly it's not a good time to be asking him. I'll see how he feels in 10 days or so once the window is closed (did I mention he's a Man U fan? That could also be why he's reluctant to take questions from Everton fans!)
148 Posted 29/08/2013 at 04:26:52
157 Posted 29/08/2013 at 06:52:07
024 Posted 30/08/2013 at 22:23:54
A relic from our days in the second division.
Favourite players, Dave Hickson, Alex Young, Big Dunc and Tim Cahill.
My question; Would an independent time keeper able to stop the game regardless of position of the ball help the job of refs.
096 Posted 31/08/2013 at 07:51:22
However I know what Ray's answer would be to that. No thanks. Keep it to the 4 officials (3 active). Goal Line Technology is a welcome addition, but leave it there, for now.
120 Posted 31/08/2013 at 08:39:29
On a global scale the premier league is far and away more popular and financial than AFL yet this very parochial Australian game has led the way in goal line technology the use of subs, 4th officials and off course time keepers.
Its game review panel regularly calls in players regardless if the Umpire (Ref) has seen or reported the incident.
Time keeping is strictly above board with no possibility of Fergie time.
Apart from two time keepers, match officials include three field umpires plus a spare, 4 Boundary umps (linesmen) plus two keeping tabs on proper use of subs. with players alternating with time on the bench each team could make 200 or more changes. Next year it will be restricted to 130 changes per team. umpires as well as the goal line technology.
Each team has two or three runners with drinks, usually women, Plus two 'Runners' who constantly ferry instructions from the coach.
I don't know how many medical staff are allowed per team but sometimes it seems like
half dozen per team. Except in dire circumstances medics do their job at the scene of the accident while play carries on.
Although it is a ridiculous number of bodies on the field none of it in any way detracts from the speed or flow of the game.
502 Posted 31/08/2013 at 21:31:29
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