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Referee Articles

Armed and Dangerous Referee – Don’t Be One!

We have heard Tom Bobadilla, former FIFA AR and a member of the USSF Referee Committee, talk about armed and dangerous referees in many of his referee courses.


Referees can always benefit from the experience of former officials so we asked Tom to share his thoughts about this concept.  He provides good tips for referees to help them avoid this problem and remain a positive and humble referee.


Enjoy and consider using the advice Tom provides to help you avoid being an armed and dangerous referee.   

Being an armed and dangerous referee is one of the top three problems for referees at all levels of the game.  A referee can easily end his career, or become an unwanted referee, by being armed and dangerous.  During my refereeing career I was armed and dangerous a few times and thanks to good mentors I eventually changed my ways for the better.  At some point in their careers, most referees will become temporarily armed and dangerous.  A referee and the soccer program around the referee dedicate a lot of time and resources to training and developing the referee.  Becoming armed and dangerous is a terrible waste and a sad way to lose a referee.  Therefore, referees need to take precautions and develop good habits to avoid this problem.


Armed and dangerous definition – In simple terms it means that a person believes, and acts as if, they know more than they actually do.  They believe they are better at what they do than they actually are.  It is almost impossible for an armed and dangerous referee to see or realize what they are going through.  


Characteristics of an armed and dangerous referee include the following.

  • Argumentative – They argue with assessors, mentors, administrators, coaches, referees, and others about everything, always trying to show that they’re right or making excuses for personal weaknesses.  They know it all!


  • Arrogant – They no longer socialize with the referees that grew up with them because they consider themselves to be better.  They expect others to adulate them and when they are ignored, because eventually most people will ignore them, they get upset and say things like “I don’t know why these referees don’t talk to me; I have so much to teach them!”     


  • Humble - not! – They talk about their great ability to referee and/or their refereeing accomplishments with a tone that projects a feeling of superiority over others.  Over the years I have heard several referees, at all levels of the game including youth play, say “I got the final game assignment because I’m the best referee!”  Sometimes when a referee gets a great assignment, it affects their ego in the wrong way!  Many years ago a former FIFA referee told me “I just got back from the world cup where I was refereeing the likes of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, and now I have to referee these mediocre players!” referring to the professional league in his country.  Mind you, these referees are nice people but at the time, they’re going through an armed and dangerous phase. 


Things the referee and others can do to avoid or minimize the armed and dangerous problem.

  • Get a couple of mentors – Soon after you become a referee ask a couple of experienced referees or instructors/assessors to be your mentors.  Mentors will help you keep your feet on the ground and remain humble as they help you experience more success.  As you become more successful as a referee and start becoming armed and dangerous, some people will not want to help you and want to see you fail.  These people will tell you what you want to hear and help you be more armed and dangerous!  Mentors, on the other hand, will tell you what you need to hear which is what will keep you humble and grounded. 


  • Remain humble at all times – Good refereeing skills and experience gets the referee the admiration and recognition from others.  And just as important, a nice and respectful attitude towards others gets the referee respect.  It is okay to think that you’re working on becoming the best referee in the world, but keep it in your mind.  Don’t talk about it and let others describe your value as a referee.


  • Perform constant self-evaluation – After every game, ask your peers, regardless of their certification level, to give you feedback on what you can do better in your next game.  At least once after every five to seven games, ask yourself the following questions:  “Do I treat players and everyone else with respect?”  “Do I embrace and value criticism from others related to my refereeing performance?”  “Do I react positively to the feedback from others and take action to improve myself?”  Ask your mentor(s) to watch you referee at least once every five or six weeks and give you feedback.  Ask coaches, other referees, and administrators how they perceive you in terms of respecting others and being a team member.  By performing self evaluation, a referee will find out the true perception others have and can work on changing it for the better.


  • Become a referee mentor – By sharing knowledge and providing guidance when the referee mentors, he will constantly review and reinforce subject matter expertise and core values such as respect and humbleness.  Mentoring helps retain and improve the use of such values.


  • Praise but say what needs to be heard – Mentors, assessors, instructors, assignors, administrators, and other leaders that work with referees need to recognize success and encourage referee improvement.  But in doing so, be sure to remind the referee that being respectful and humble at all times is part of the recipe for being successful without being armed and dangerous.       


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