To celebrate UEFA Grassroots Week, we asked elite Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg to share some advice for officials who are just starting out.
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Last month, UEFA launched the 'Be a Referee!' campaign to recruit thousands of new officials across Europe.
With no ref, there is no game, so it is crucial that we attract more people, especially young people, to take up the whistle. It can be a daunting prospect though, so we asked top Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg for some advice to help new and potential referees adapt to the role.
The 34-year-old was 13 when he first took charge of a game, but has since graduated to the UEFA Champions League and was recently the man in the middle when Portugal beat Slovakia in EURO 2024 qualifying. Below are his five top tips.
1 – Love what you do
"Passion is the biggest thing as a referee. I advise young referees or any referee who is not at the top level to remember that football is about passion. If you love being a referee and you show everyone that you love it, then players will accept you more.
"My father was an assistant referee, so, for me, it was in the blood. He was my role model when I was a little kid, and later it was good to have him at my matches, because it can be quite tough when you are young and you don’t have a lot of experience."
2 – Master the Laws of the Game
"It's an obvious one, but as a referee, you have to know the Laws of the Game because it’s your duty to apply them to a match, because it needs to be played in a fair manner. It's also your responsibility to keep up with any changes each season. Attending a referee education course is the perfect starting point, and the foundation upon for building our understanding of the game."
3 – Get your positioning right
"At the beginning, fitness is not the biggest issue in refereeing, but when you climb higher and higher and the football gets faster and faster, the fitness level needs to improve, for referees just like players. That obviously helps you get into good positions to make decisions, which is really important. If you go to a higher level, then you might be able to study how teams play, and can anticipate which movements you need to make for a certain phase of play."
4 – Believe in yourself and forget your mistakes
"We know that as referees, every decision we take could make someone unhappy, and won't be applauded all round, that's just the job and you need to be mentally strong.
"When you start out, you will make mistakes, and it will feel like the whole world is collapsing. As a new referee with less experience, a missed throw-in and some shouting players might make everything feel like a disaster, but we all learn by making mistakes. Sometimes now I might get a throw-in wrong, but I won't let a throw-in rule my world, and you should be the same."
5 – Communication is key
"Communication is very important in refereeing, and it's part of your role in leading the match. That might mean talking and explaining your decisions, we all have our own style with that, and I like to speak with players to tell them how I see things. Communication can also be in your body language. I always prefer to stay calm with players, and then if I am calm, hopefully, they will give me calmness back.
"Finally, there are also your assistant referees, if you have them. Now, with VAR, sometimes the refereeing team can be six, seven, eight people, and we all need to talk to each other and listen."