Refereeing in England vs Australia

Refereeing in England vs Australia

A Q&A with Chris Hope

Chris Hope is an Australian referee who spent time officiating at elite levels of football in England. He was the 2017 Victorian referee of the year and a 2018 Victorian Sports Official of the Year Finalist. He currently referees at the Australian National Premier League level.

1. Why did you become a referee?

My parents basically forced me to do the referees course! When I was younger, they said it would be great for my personal development, they were right and it has been one of the best things I have done.

2. What levels have you refereed at in Australia and the UK?

In England, I was lucky to officiate in the Football Conference, Premier League U19s and Northern Premier League. I learnt a significant amount at this level and had some fantastic coaches and colleagues who helped me improve a lot.

In Australia, I have been refereeing in the NPL for the last five seasons and refereed the 2017 Grand Final. I really enjoy refereeing in the NPL, the players and coaches I respect a great deal and I really enjoy the battles I have with them on the pitch. 

3. What did you find the main differences between the playing styles in Australia and the UK?

The main difference in football between the two counties is in the physicality of the league. In the Northern Premier League, for example, the referees will give around 12 – 15 free kicks a game and the players accept that. In the NPL Victoria this would be less accepted as the league is more technical. In saying that the standard of football in England is excellent many levels down, and there are some really high-quality players at all levels. 

I was always taught in England to deal with any overly physical play, communicate a lot with players and manage any technical offences, this is very different where the teaching in Australia is more technical and they are encouraged to penalise more offences. It is just a difference in the style of refereeing and what is expected. It is one of the biggest tricks as a referee, to referee to expectations and that includes the players, crowd and what the league is ‘used to’. I have had to find a balance with my style and I hope that I have been able to maintain good traits from both.

4. Was there a noticeable difference in the treatment of referees from teams in both countries?

There can always be an improvement in the treatment of referees in both countries. There have been issues that are well documented around referee abuse in both and we have been talking about this issue for years and will continue to do so. 

I feel for the referees who are exposed to grassroots football or juniors and are often at the ground by themselves. Semi-professional football is a bit different where there is security or stewards to look after referees. I believe it takes a strong approach from the governing bodies to protect referees and they have a big part to play in the leadership and setting an example in protecting referees. 

Personally I have been treated well in both countries, I am especially grateful to the NPL Victoria clubs who invite us in for food after a game and they are always very hospitable. I think this is important that referees take up this offer and build genuine relationships with players and clubs after a game.

5. Has refereeing assisted you in your professional or personal development?

Absolutely, refereeing has been great for me. I was lucky that refereeing turned into a job for me, and I was really grateful for the opportunity given to me by Matthew Annells and the FFV to work with some incredible referees in my role as a development manager. Working in football will always be a fond memory for me.

It has assisted me a lot in relation to my personal development, the skillset I have developed from refereeing in particular in relation to my interpersonal skills has been immeasurable.

6. Would you encourage referees to consider refereeing in other countries where possible?

Yes, definitely. It was so significantly powerful to referee in another country for my development. There are other examples in NPL Victoria and the A-League if you consider the likes of Jack Morgan and Adam Fielding who both spent time refereeing in England and Alessandro Arbizzani, Michael Mammis and Yanni Zisis who all refereed in Europe and have managed to retain a lot of the good traits they learned in both countries. 

If not refereeing in another country then watching matches from other countries and developing your refereeing skills by seeing how things are done in another country. For example, Adam Bavcar is one of the most successful referees in Victorian football in recent times and spends a lot of time reviewing football from overseas in order to improve himself.

Many of the younger referees who have spent time at tournaments overseas come back and have experienced significant growth as referees. It is always good to see what is happening overseas and apply some of those skills in the Australian context.

7. What are your long-term goals as a referee?

Continue to referee well in NPL Victoria, mentor younger referees and hopefully have a positive impact on their development.

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