Brian Barlow is a pilot and referee. He is also behind the referee abuse campaign, Offside, where the struggles of being a referee are exposed through a viral lens.
1. Being a referee for 14 years, what keeps you grounded when in the midst of conflict between players, parents and fans?
For me, it’s a little different because everyone’s watching how I handle adversity or pressure in the heat of the moment. As I Pilot I am trained to remain calm and fly the plane no matter what, I take that same approach to reffing.
2. What has been the general public’s response to your campaign #STOP?
A majority of the response is overwhelmingly positive. Every single day I get tens to sometimes hundreds of messages from people who are reformed “Cheeseburgers” or who are trying to help the initiative in some way. Face to face people are great, it’s the keyboard warriors who tend to have the most hate about our approach on the OFFSIDE page.
3. How did the idea come about to create exposure on the struggles of being a referee?
Every single club, sport organization and even pro sport administrations know there is a cancerous epidemic with people behaving badly at sporting events. I was sick of listening to people talk about, so I just decided to be dramatic and tactical to generate awareness! It was a gamble, but it worked. There is more attention now than ever before because of the OFFSIDE page.
4. What do you want to get out from creating this platform?
Change!!! This cancerous accepted culture in youth sports is ruining all the good that comes from the officials, volunteer coaches and people who love what sports can teach our kids; sportsmanship, passion, hard work, overcoming adversity, winning with grace, losing with dignity, etc.
5. How has Offside allowed you to connect with others in similar positions?
I have had more opportunities as a referee and now as the creator of offside than I could have imagined! I get invited to speak all over the world now, influence all ages of refs and tell the stories of those who have been abused. I am grateful for all these opportunities but I would rather adults just grow-up so this page didn’t even exist honestly.
6. As a soccer referee, and having met many soccer parents, what has been your worst experience?
Most of the time people are really cool to me (to my face) but there have been a few times a group of parents or a person wants to challenge a decision or a controversial moment. I had an entire local teams parents spend 3 days trying to tell the world how bad of a ref I was, I guess they gave up?
7. Why do you think it is important to put a spotlight on Referee Abuse?
The game needs it, the kids deserve it.