Bye-bye, pen and paper: an interview with Hassan Rajwani, CEO of the popular referee app REFSIX

During last season’s winter break I decided to try out REFSIX, an app that allows you to add all your match data – goals, red or yellow cards and substitutions – directly on a smartwatch, live during the game. Meaning: bye-bye to pen and paper. The idea sounded really good, so I gave it a go during a friendly game, and guess what? It was everything I had hoped for. I’ve been using it ever since.

REFSIX is the brainchild of one man: Hassan Rajwani. He’s a referee in the English amateur league, and I had the pleasure to talk to him about REFSIX. 

Yungref: How did you come up with the idea for REFSIX?

Hassan: “The idea was born during my referee course in 2008. They told us we had to write down all match data in our wallet. And I was thinking: ‘What? Writing on paper? In 2008?’ (laughs) Right around that period the first iPhone came out, so I thought: why not develop an app in which you could write down match data, straight to your phone? Which we did. But six years later Apple released its smart watch, and then I knew: if we could get the app on one of those, that would be brilliant.

For my graduation project I had to develop an app, so that became REFSIX. And as soon as we released it, it became popular very quickly.”

Yungref: Did you put a lot of money in advertising?

Hassan: “Actually, no. In the early days, we simply attended a lot of meetings of referee associations, because that’s where our main audience was. We just told referees about our app and gave a little demo. We also created a YouTube channel and uploaded videos with tips and tricks, just to give users advice about special features. The rest is just word of mouth: referees who like the app tell their friends and colleagues. And that combination still works wonders, ‘cause we’re still growing.  

Yungref: Do any famous referees use the app?

Hassan: “Back in 2019, our REFSIX team went to America for the Dallas Cup. Some FIFA referees were present, like Matthew Conger from New-Zealand who refereed during the World Cup in 2018. He used our app for his games, and that felt really special to us. But we like to focus more on the amateur refs, because we had them in mind when designing the app.

The Premier League has a system of its own, and they have a team of four officials who can do the admin during the game. In the amateur league you’re often on your own, you have no one to fall back on – it’s your responsibility to do everything correctly. REFSIX can be pretty helpful in those situations.”

Yungref: A while ago you added some new features. For instance, it’s now possible to add a whole new match entirely on your smart watch – previously, you had to do that on your phone. How did you come up with this idea? And any more features coming soon?

Hassan: “We designed the 5.0 version for different reasons. In America, for example, there are always lots of tournaments. Referees mostly leave their phone in the dressing room, but it’s a bit of a nuisance to head back there for every new game. Now, like you said, referees can create a new game on their watch.

Some new features in the app

Actually, right now we’re focusing on actions you could only do on your phone, like change the team’s shirt colours. Now, you can also do that on your watch. It’s a small detail, but anything that makes REFSIX more handy is on the top of our list. Most of this feedback comes from the users themselves. In the app or on our site, you just navigate to ‘More’ and then to ‘Give feedback’. If you tell us what you want, we can look into it and improve the app more and more.”

Yungref: Can you give some secret tips or tricks for the users?

Hassan: “Of course. First of all, I can recommend referees to experiment with our timing options. We have four of them: an elapse timer, a countup timer, a countdown timer and an additional timer. And the fun thing: you’re able to use three at the same time. During my games, I always use the elapse and countdown timers plus the additional timer. This way, I’m hyper-aware of where I am in the game – I know exactly how much time has passed and how much is still left before the final whistle.

We also have two different watch faces. The big timer has a focus on timing, the classic one shows the score while the time is more in the background. Another handy feature: you can start the second half from the 45th minute, instead of having to start from 0 again.

Screenshot of the timer settings

I would also recommend a lot of practice – get used to the system before taking it out on the field. And use it step by step: first, only track the time and write down the goals. Once you’re familiar with that, you can start using it for cards and subs.

If you need any more tips: check out our YouTube channel, as we have regular updates there.”

Yungref: What’s your standard line to people who don’t use REFSIX and need a little convincing?

Hassan: “That our system is very useful for three major reasons. First, it makes administration before, during and after the game so much easier. You’ll also make less mistakes than when you’re using notecards.

Also, the system tracks your performance status. You get all sorts of stats, like your heatmap and the distance you covered – you learn a lot by looking at those, and you can use that info to improve yourself.

And the thing I like the most: you’re able to log your whole career. In the blink of an eye, you can see how many games you’ve refereed, how many cards you’ve handed out, etcetera.”

Yungref: The last one’s my favourite, too. Thanks, Hassan!

Interested in getting the REFSIX app? You can get it from the AppStore and GooglePlay Store, and thanks to Hassan, I can offer the readers of my blog 15% discount if they want to upgrade their app to the PRO-version. Just add the code YUNGREF to REFSIX PRO. Much appreciated, Hassan!

REFSIX is also active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. This video is a nice introduction to the app:

And if you have further questions about the app itself, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or send me a dm on Instagram. See you!