They run the greatest distance, create the most controversy and affect the end result of every game.

The man in the middle is underrated and you should know why.

It’s a job for the perfectionists

They hold the most power on the field with a whistle in one hand and red and yellow cards in their pockets. They’ll get your number if you get on their bad side. Yet with every game brings a renewed pressure to get it right. All games are reviewed and every decision dissected, error rates are followed and consistency is constantly evaluated. Serious muck ups will get you demoted.

It’s like working in retail

It might seem harsh but referees were lobbying for this sort of feedback back in 2011 with calls that the match officiates were struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing speed and technicality of the game. In an effort to increase quality and accountability, referees were given performance indicators and goals to meet.

Don’t quit your day job

Even though three full-time referees were appointed in September this year, many referees also hold down full time jobs ranging from teaching to finance and treat refereeing as a part time job on the side. Most A-League referees are at the bottom of the food chain, earning less than their NRL, AFL and EPL counterparts who average at least $100,000 a season. Calls for the FFA to introduce full-time status to improve the quality of refereeing were met in September with a $300,000 investment in Ben Williams, Jarred Gillet and Chris Beath. This is great and all but around the same time the World Cup quarter-finalists the Matildas called off their high profile match against the USA over their demands on pay and conditions.

Pressure is thrust upon them

Video replays are probably the greatest fear of referees. That feeling you get opening your report card? The doubts, the second guessing; did I get it right? Imagine that feeling in front of thousands of hungry fans and the knowledge that your decision can determine the outcome of the whole match. David de Bohun seemed to be feeling the pressure that refs face every match this week in light of controversy surrounding the FFA’s lack of appeals process for banned spectators. “We have to make the right decision, not the popular decision.”

A good job goes unnoticed

It’s a thankless job. It’s lose lose. No one notices when they make a good call and they’re only recognised when they make a bad call. Half the crowd loves you and the other half is insulting your eyesight. But never fear, man in the middle, because football can’t survive without you.

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A 20 year old Media and Law student trying to tame those stream-of-consciousness writing habits with an ickle bit of fun at the Central Coast Mariners.