MIDDLE: Mic referee for Reading v Chelsea in the Women’s Super League
Reading FC Women took part in what was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in English professional football.
During Reading’s Women’s Super League game against Chelsea, the referee, Emily Heaslip, carried a microphone. Now I’m sure you’ll say that the referees in the top football competitions are always on the microphone these days, but of course the referees’ comments can only be heard by the assistant referees, the fourth official and the VAR where they are installed.
The difference on this occasion is that thanks to Sky Sports, anyone could tune in and listen to what the referee was saying and the responses of his assistants.
As a referee, I find many of Emily’s comments interesting. If we start when she gave a penalty, no histrionics, she just pointed the spot and then when a player lined the ball up she asked ‘Do you take it?’.
Why is this important? The law stipulates that the kicker must be clearly identified. This is to prevent another player from sneaking in and taking the kick before the goalkeeper is ready.
Emily then said to the kicker, “wait for my whistle please”. Two points here. The law states that the kick must be taken after the referee’s signal, with the whistle being the obvious choice.
This gives the referee time to make sure everyone is in the right spot for the kick. The other word I liked was “please”. and when the players reacted to her “feet out” request (from the penalty area), she said “thank you”. I’ve always thought referees should be polite.
Emily spoke to the goalkeeper, reminding her how she should behave and pointing out that her assistant would be watching her, which is the assistant referee’s job during penalty kicks.
I was particularly intrigued by how Emily and her team used their intercom for offside. Offside is difficult because the decision has to be made the moment the ball is kicked, so Emily would shout ‘now’ when the pass was made and her assistants would respond with ‘onside’ or ‘on hold-flag’.
Rugby fans will tell us that their game was introduced many years ago, spectators could tune in for a fee. Why was he not brought into Premier League football? The story is that because the players could also be heard when talking to the referee, their language was considered too expansive for onlookers.
Emily and her team had no such problem.
By Dick Sawdon Smith