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The Football Referees’ Forum and the Case of the Missing Coin

On FRI 26 OCT 2018, referee David McNamara realised that he left the coin behind in his locker room before a Women’s Super League match between Manchester City and Reading. Accordingly, to decide ends of the pitch and who would kick off, he asked captains Steph Houghton and Kirsty Pearce to engage in a quick bout of rock-paper-scissors.

This week, England’s Football Association suspended him for three weeks, recommending instead that he should have “received a phone call and been given some operational advice”.

This, of course, is one of the top sixty one billion stupidest things that have ever been said about football referees by non-referees. [There have been a hell of a lot of stupid things that non-referees have said about referees. We here at GoobNet admit to some of them.]

Furthermore, it contradicts the guidance that is constantly given to referees about all other situations. At literally every single other moment of a match, referees are encouraged to use their own discretion and best judgment, to think on their feet, and to take initiative in order to ensure fairness for both teams, defuse tense situations, and maintain the flow of a match.

But the FA has now officially told referees that if they do not have a coin, they should delay kickoff, run to the nearest telephone [keep in mind that their mobiles are likely to be in the locker room, right next to the coin], place a call to the FA office [keep in mind that they are not likely to have the number of the FA office handy], hope that someone is there to actually pick up the telephone [keep in mind that the vast majority of matches are played on nights and weekends], and discuss the situation with someone who is probably just staying late to finish up some paperwork and is not qualified to discuss the finer points of the Laws of the Game [keep in mind that this person will probably advise them to do rock-paper-scissors anyway].

In protest, English referees have used rock-paper-scissors at matches throughout the weekend to show their support for McNamara.

At such times of crisis involving the Laws of the Game, we here at GoobNet have a standard procedure. We reach out to the global refereeing community and ask them what to do. Luckily, they talked us out of our first impulse, which was to sack the entire leadership of the FA, tar and feather them, and string them from the arch at Wembley Stadium.

We have instead begun to collect their suggestions for things to do instead of rock-paper-scissors. Join us for this special edition of the GoobNet Mailbox: The Football Referees’ Forum!

I have left the coin behind two or three times. I simply placed both of my hands behind my back and asked the captain of the visiting team to guess which hand contained my whistle.

– Stefania Piatazzini
Rome, Italy

That is a perfectly valid solution. Well done for applying your judgment and intellect. May we offer you the position of manager of women’s refereeing at the FA?

I was refereeing a high school game once when I forgot my coin. I just borrowed one from the head of the grounds crew. Problem solved.

– Coraline Fernandez
Sugarland, TX, USA

That works too. You are also qualified for the position of manager of women’s refereeing at the FA.

There was one time when I forgot my coin. I just asked one captain to hold up some number of fingers behind her back, and then I asked the other captain to guess odd or even.

– Mia C Peppers
Coeur d’Alene, ID, USA

Another good solution. How about you? Would you like to be the manager of women’s refereeing at the FA?

One time, at a youth match, I did the coin toss with a quarter that I borrowed from someone on the sideline. It was probably the father of one of the girls.

– Anne Jacinta
Corona, CA, USA

You also found a workable solution to a difficult problem. We also invite you to apply for the position of manager of women’s refereeing at the FA.

I didn’t have a coin once, but one of my assistants did. So I just borrowed from her.

– Mel Banette-Lopez
Tucson, AZ, USA

Looks like borrowing a coin from someone else is one of the most popular solutions. Would you be interested in the position of manager of women’s refereeing at the FA?

There was one match, early in my refereeing career, when I left my coin behind in the dressing room. I did, however, have my notebook and pencil. So I simply wrote down a number and asked the visiting captain to guess whether it was odd or even.

– Justine R Alamert
Lausanne, Switzerland

Odd or even is another popular choice, it seems. Would you like to become manager of women’s refereeing at the FA?

I have never had that happen to me at a football match that I refereed. However, I also referee handball occasionally, and that did happen to me at a handball match. Instead, I put both hands behind my back and put one card in each hand. I then asked the captain of the visiting team to select which of my hands was holding the yellow card. It was the red card, and so the other team threw off to start the match.

– Analiess Gardanui
Stuttgart, Germany

That is another good solution. May we interest you in the position of manager of women’s refereeing at the FA?

I have never forgotten my coin. However, once I forgot my yellow and red cards. I just didn’t book anyone for the duration of the match.

– Belle Schaumberg
Birmingham, England, UK

Okay, that sounds like it’s worthy of a three week suspension.