Non League Daily

KEITH HACKETT: Officiating friendly fixtures

With pre-season all but over, former Premier League referee Keith Hackett looks back at his time officiating friendly fixtures

I can recall in my time officiating many pre-season friendly games.

Four or five games in a week helped to sharpen up my decision making and to get use to applying any new law changes.

This year in specific grassroots leagues young referees will have to cope with the introduction of the "Sin Bin"

In my career in the middle In pre-season games I use to meet both Managers of the teams prior to kick off to make arrangements about how we would deal with that over zealous player who wanted to kick everything in sight or take on my role.

The Players who wanted to try to tell you that every decision that you were making was poor are the ones that can undermine your authority.

I use to tell the managers that if I looked in their direction they should make a quick substitution to avoid a red or yellow card before the season kicked off.
Yes,  substitute that difficult player quickly before a card was shown.

I took this arrangement into my pre-season games with Football League clubs.

I can recall in my first season on the Football League I received an invitation from BRIAN Clough to officiate Nottingham Forest v Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The arrangement was in place that if I looked in either Managers direction the substation would be enforced.

However in this game things did not go to plan.

Larry Lloyd, the Nottingham Forest defender, put in a tackle in the 6th minute to inform the Tampa Bay number ten that he was operating a thou shall not pass at all costs approach in this game.

Whilst the Tampa Bay player was receiving treatment, some thirty yards away down by the touchline Brian Clough was shouting in an effort to calm Larry down.

Sadly the  I unfortunately decided to glance in his direction. Sadly for Larry Loyd that glance had confused Brian Clough who decided to substitute his centre half.

Larry never forgave me for that and some years later when he was Manager for Wigan I was invited to his dressing room to recall the story.

In today's football Referees are NOT allowed to make any form of arrangement.

The Football Association expect referees to apply the Laws of the Game consistently in Pre-season friendlies, if they do not then they are at risk of suspension.

So please bear this in mind when you take those first steps towards the new season.

For those fantastic volunteers who without them the game would not exist I send my best wishes and a big thank you.

Those dark nights and games under floodlights, that smell of liniment and those enjoyable cups of tea and a pie at halftime are back with us and we can all engage with our great game.

Please show respect towards the match officials and your opponents.

Article: Keith Hackett (
Image: Reuters Media

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