Recommended Referee Reading

I’m immensely proud as featured on this month’s episode of the popular refereeing podcast RefereesWorld. Sadly, presenters Darren Cullum and Richard Melinn had no time to read out the full list I submitted, so I’m putting it on the site.

Here goes:

  1. Technique & Match Control.

It all started in 1905 with How to Referee by William Pickford. For a book over a century old, it still provides some valuable advice. Our job on the FOP really hasn’t changed much since…

However, there are more recent gems. Most notably David Ager’s The Soccer Referee’s Manual, which gives very good advice on handling match situations and players. Just as good, if not better, but a tougher book to get through is For the Good of the Game: Modern Techniques and Practical Wisdom for Today’s Soccer Referee by Edward Bellion and Robert Evans. Both should still be easy to find. A bit harder to find in second-hand shops is Stanley Lover’s Soccer Match Control: an Illustrated Handbook for the Football Referee. It’s from 1988 (there’s also a 1975 version) but is, in my opinion, still the benchmark. Also from the olden days is former MP Denis Howell’s Soccer Refereeing (1969; a revised edition followed in 1977), a surprisingly insightful book. Copies are abundantly available from second-hand bookshops.

A few years ago former PL ref and PGMOL chief Keith Hackett published You are the Ref. A Guide to Good Refereeing, with great illustrations by Paul Trevillion. Mostly geared to starting referees and those with a keen interest in viewing football, it is a useful book.

Another recent addition is Randy Vogt’s Preventive Officiating – How a Referee Avoids Trouble on the Soccer Field (2010). A short but excellent book about.. well, the title says it all, really.

  1. Laws of the Game

Well, the annual FIFA Laws of the Game can be readily downloaded off the FIFA site. Less easy to find but quite useful is FIFA’s “Interpretation of the Laws of the GAme and Guidelines for Referees”. It can be found in PDF format after a good search on the internet, I’m sure. Is the Referees’ Chart still in print? If so, it’s quite handy to slip one into your kit bag for reference purposes.

  1. Referee Memoirs & biographies

Quite a few, mostly British, referees have had their memoirs published, starting with Arthur Ellis, through Gordon Hill, Pierluigi Collina, David Elleray to most recently Mark Halsey. Some of these provide rather useful advice, other less so, most of them focussing on their PL and international careers. Fortunately, some grassroots refs have also committed their experiences to paper. Fez Barnard, for example, wrote his Diary of a New Referee, outlining his adventures as a starting and advancing ref. Roy Entwistle did likewise in his I’m not God… I’m Just a Referee!, a funny account of a park league ref.

  1. History of Refereeing

This all starts with The Man in Black: A History of the Football Referee by Gordon Thompson. An ambitious book that doesn’t quite deliver but is a good starting point anyway. I don’t know if it’s still in print. FIFA also published a book (now out of print) titled Football History: Laws of the Game: Referees (co-author: Sepp Blatter!). For an understanding of the evolution of the LOTG, read A History of the Laws of Association Football by Sir Stanley Rous and Donald Ford. It’s from 1974 and unfortunately stops there with its description of the LOTG as they were written and developed through the years. It’s also out of print, regrettably.

  1. Magazines

The FA & RA issue a joint publication, “Refereeing”, which is definitely worth reading. Most definitely. An American cross-sport magazine “Referee” includes good articles on soccer/football officiating as well.


The podcast can be listened to on the site of or it can be downloaded from iTunes.

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