Soccer Referee: A guide to fitness & technique – Clive Thomas


Known as “The Book” for his strict interpretation of the laws of the game, Clive Thomas is one of the better known British referees from the 1970s and 1980s. My Dutch readers may remember him as the somewhat high-handed referee who sent off Willem van Hanegem at the 1976 European Championships or the referee who denied Brazil the winning goal in their 1978 World Cup match against Sweden by blowing the final whistle just before the ball passed the Swedish goalie. Tom Hudson is a fitness professor at Bath University. Thomas’s contribution to this rather thin book was to write a few chapters on the referee’s conduct on the pitch, dealing with people, collaborating with linesmen (all effectively illustrated), and on the factors affecting a ref’s performance. Hudson added a number of chapters about the training and exercise regimen top-flight referees should follow before and during the season. He also provides hints and tips as to which foods and beverages to consume and to avoid. The final chapter contains a condensed version of the laws of football.

Value for active referees

Quite good, actually, given the booklet’s age.

The advice doled out by Thomas on handling players, managers and others in football still ring true, regardless of the fact that much of his advice relates to officiating at the highest levels. Fortunately, there’re plenty of tips to be found for young referees as well. One interesting fact to emerge from this book is that in the 1970s, as in the 1950s (mentioned in Arthur Ellis’s Refereeing round the World), the FA experimented with regular teams of referee and linesmen. Thomas regretted the experiment was called off. The book also shows foresight as to some issues. Under the heading “Suggestions”, Thomas suggests a number of changes to the laws or in the collaboration of referee and linesmen which have since become mainstream or are still being clamored for. For example, he – presagingly – advocates the delay in the advantage rule, allowing refs to award a free kick after all if no advantage ensues. Thomas also wants to tackle time-wasting by goalkeepers, who tend to walk around their areas holding the ball. In the book, he also champions ‘sin bins’: players having to sit out a time penalty after receiving a yellow card. In doing so, Thomas effectively suggests the introduction of the green card used in field hockey. He also predicts the line at 10 yards from the corner flag, although his proposed solution is somewhat more radical: a 10-yard corner arc!

Though dated, the authors’ tips and hints to improve one’s condition and food intake do still carry a general truth. There’s no harm in going through them and pick out a few things to improve your habits, but these days there are better methods to be found. Training facilities at referees’ associations, for example, have improved dramatically and are completely tailored to meet today’s refereeing demands.

Clive Thomas

Clive Thomas

Final say

Frankly: I had not expected to pick up this much useful information from this less than expansive book. I was surprised at the enduring validity of the ideas espoused by Hudson and Thomas and even more so by the latter’s predictions on the future of refereeing. Even though the book is largely outdated – in particular the part on physical fitness – the book does contain quite a bit of useful information. Although copies do turn up at second-hand bookshops, this title can be rather hard to find.

Title Soccer Referee: A guide to fitness & technique
Authors Clive Thomas and Tom Hudson
Year of publication 1978
Publisher Duckworth
Pages 96

Leave a Reply