Matchday guidance for referees

A Guide to Pitch Inspections

Phil Sharp - Hertfordshire FA RDO
It's the time of the year that all match officials need to be prepared for pitch inspections.

At this time of year we should all be prepared for the weather to worsen and the need to be proactive with pitch inspections before a match can be played.

General Points

We would seriously suggest that you don’t start a game that you think will not be completed, if the pitch will not be playable by the end of the game or the weather forecast strongly indicates it will get worse!

Please also consider the Clubs pitch. If you start a match and completely ruin their pitch, which they won’t be able to use for weeks or it will cost a lot of money to repair, then don’t play the match.

Finally, If your game is called off or you call a game off upon inspection, besides letting your League know, ask them if there is another game that requires a referee that you could get to and cover.

Pitch & Weather Conditions

  • Frozen and/or Rutted Pitch: dangerous for players safety
  • Waterlogged Pitch: players safety and making the game a farce – movement of ball stuck in puddles
  • Snow Covered Pitch: pitch markings and match ball need to be seen and thick snow makes a farce of the game
  • Fog: If the referee can’t see both goals from the centre circle or the Assistant Referees can’t see across the pitch to judge offsides and the ball being played from the other half – makes a farce of the game or if you feel the conditions endanger the well-being of the players.If you don’t have neutral assistant referees, you may consider not playing the match at all because you won’t be able to detect any misconduct which occurs off the ball in areas that you cant see!
  • In Game Weather Conditions: Be prepared to listen to advice and consider taking the players off the pitch and resume the game in a short period of time, if the likelihood is that conditions will improve. In Youth Football discuss with both match delegates.
  • Preparation: Make it a habit to watch a reliable weather forecast in the run up to your games for example. It shows a level of professionalism to the teams if we can be seen to be proactive when we speak to them.
Phil Sharp, Hertfordshire FA Referee Development Officer and Former FIFA Football Match Official
Remember – our number one priority is Players Safety. If you have doubts, do not start the game. If the game has already started, be prepared to abandon the game if the conditions deteriorate.
- Phil Sharp, Hertfordshire FA Referee Development Officer Refereeing in Hertfordshire

Match Abandonment

Communicate with the Clubs and inform them of your thoughts but you make the final decision. The score at the time of the match abandonment is secondary to players safety. Inform the teams that you will notify the League/Competition and they alone decide the outcome of the game or if the match is to be replayed.

Additional Points

  • If the local Council Authority owns the pitch, they may call all games off at a location in advance and the match cannot be played there.
  • If the home club feel there could be a problem with the pitch they should notify their opponents and the match officials ASAP and advise what actions they are taking.If you don’t hear from the home Club be pro-active and contact them and ask what they plan to do?
  • Clubs and referees should check competition rules to see if the regulations allow for the match to be switched venues (away team ground for example) or other correct procedures in such circumstances.
  • Referees should be prepared to arrive early to inspect the pitch and advise both teams and the League/Competition that a pitch is not playable after the inspection.
  • Referees should always communicate with the referee appointments officer of the League/Competition if in doubt over a pitch inspection.
  • Referees being assessed / mentored must inform their Observer / Mentor ASAP.
  • Review the weather forecast for the area of the match for the day of the game and be aware if the weather is forecast to deteriorate after your kick off time

Referee Fees - pitch inspections / matches called off

If you are asked to do a pitch inspection, please check with the League/Competition as some cover travelling expenses to be paid but this could also be seen as a free service to Clubs by referees to help them and not charge for local pitch inspections.

General regulations are:

  • If you are informed the game is postponed before you travel from home/work - you are not entitled to any payment/fee.
  • However, if you travel and you get to the venue and the game is then called off, you may be entitled to a fee/half fee or expenses depending on the Competition rules, so please check beforehand what you may claim from the home club.
  • If you start a game and then have to abandon it due to worsening conditions, you are entitled to your full fee.