Play of the Week – Proactive Man-Management

This week we are discussing a very important asset for any aspiring referee, the ability to manage people. This is not exclusive to players on the field but from the moment you arrive at the ground/stadium, you will be watched and judged on the way you interact and manage everyone you come in contact with. If you are respectful and humble you will earn respect in return and this will have a natural benefit to your man-management during the game.

In this week’s Play of the Week we are showing examples of excellent man-management by the referee and 4th Official from the MLS Returns Tournament Final between Portland Timbers and Orlando City.

At the start of the hydration/drinks break in the first half we see a confrontation between Timbers’ midfielder Sebastian Blanco and City’s head coach Oscar Pareja. Blanco has taken exception to comments that Pareja had made and starts walking towards him. An alert 4th Official Joe Dickerson immediately intervenes and stands between them. This is excellent pro-active management and teamwork which helps to prevent any potential misconduct and gives the opportunity for the referee Ismail Elfath to usher Blanco away from the Technical Area.

Elfath follows good practice by isolating the player and speaks to him in a respectful and thoughtful manner. At one stage he puts his arm around Blanco. Touching players is something I wouldn’t normally advise or advocate because players can react adversely, but on this occasion the referee obviously felt comfortable doing this and to be fair it was reciprocated by the player. It’s important to note that after the management techniques used by Elfath in keeping Blanco calm and under control, he finishes by showing his authority by gesturing “no more”. This is important communication to effectively deter him and others from behaving in a similar manner.

In any kind of confrontation, it’s important for any referee to be balanced and even to both teams. Elfath approaches coach Pareja to issue a similar warning and instigates them coming together to apologize and ‘make up’. It’s important to note that this is only advisable if the temperature of the game and two opponents is calm and they show willing to co-operate. Elfath’s approach and body language is calmness personified throughout the whole process which is of vital importance as this transmits to the players. If a referee isn’t calm how can he expect the players to be calm!

This POTW is an example of effective pro-active man-management, initially by 4th Official Joe Dickerson, then by Referee Ismail Elfath. They demonstrated numerous examples of best practice in how situations can be managed by match officials:

  • Swift Intervention
  • Teamwork
  • Isolating players
  • Respect
  • Authority
  • Calmness
  • A balanced approach

This situation could have escalated into an ugly scene that we have witnessed on numerous previous occasions, resulting in yellow and red cards. The above pro-active man-management skills prevented the requirement for sanctions and the whole scenario reached a peaceful and cordial conclusion.


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