How to communicate fluently as a referee team? Some useful tips by FIFA-referee Bram Van Driessche.

There’s no good refereeing without excellent preparation and communication, so we learned from Bram Van Driessche, active in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League and FIFA-referee since 2019 (read the interview in Dutch here). What about some extra useful tips for us young referees, Bram?

YungRef: Being a good referee is all about making the right preparations – giving your team clear instructions and stressing good communication. How do you handle that? And which instructions do you give?

Bram: The most important job of a referee is to make sure we have the game under control, as a team. Therefore, in the week before a game, I always make a PowerPoint presentation in which I put as many details as I can: about the teams, of course, but also about individual key players. I also try to put clips from previous games in. Basically, everything that helps us get a better view on the teams goes into this PowerPoint. On top, I put in details on how I think we should communicate. Then, on game day we take some time to run through the whole presentation.

YungRef: How do you make sure you communicate fluently with your team?

Bram: It’s also something you should discuss in advance. For instance, you should agree on when to use your beeper flags, or about which situations your assistants should and should not raise their flag for fouls in their area. And as far as the headset goes: discuss beforehand how you will communicate during certain situations – like: offsides, goals or mass confrontations.

YungRef: What do you consider to be the best way to talk effectively with players and coaches during the game?

Bram: To me, it’s quite important to be accessible to players. If they want to ask something during the game: no problem. And we don’t have to be stern and serious all the time: adding humor or a little joke here and there may help, and players usually appreciate that. As long as it stays amicable and respectful. When players drop their level of respect, it’s time for you to become stricter in your way of communicating, too.

YungRef: Not many people realise how important the role of the fourth official is during a game. As someone who has had quite some experience with it, do you deal with rowdy players’ benches during difficult situations?

Bram: It’s true: people often underestimate this job. As a main referee, you need to be in control of twenty-two players. That’s quite a lot, but as a fourth official you basically take the heat from a multitude of people: coaches, players and dozens of other personnel. Then again, you should keep a low profile, to avoid too much protest. It’s not forbidden to explain decisions of the main referee to coaches – if they ask you politely (laughs). You also need to talk to them in a humane way, while keeping your emotions under control. Again: it’s all about mutual respect.

YungRef: Finally: any general recommendations for referees?

Bram: Simple:just try to have fun with this fantastic job. Also: be physically prepared, because modern football asks for it. If you’re young and ambitious: prepare to get more and more athletic. Be confident during games, but make sure you know every law of the game by heart. Be ambitious, but never forget to stay realistic: do everything step by step!

We’ll bear those in mind, Bram, thanks a lot!