How does he manage?: The football referee

Mike Riley reveals what it means to manage in the pressure-cooker world of professional football.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

When did you become a manager?

I've been refereeing 27 years. I realised early I was rubbish at football (after picking the ball out of our net for the 17th time). The catalyst was an injury - I started out running the line for our Saturday league as a way of getting fit, and eventually the refereeing took over.

What does management mean to you?

Wanting to do your best. I referee big matches, from Arsenal vs Man United to relegation battles and Champions League games, yet it's still just a game of football. Making good decisions is essential even in the Saturday league. There's been an explosion of exposure lately - every single incident now gets over-analysed. Ten years ago, they had a couple of cameras at a game; now for a live match it's 30 cameras, capturing every decision. I'd turn up to my day job after a game and see newspaper cuttings pinned to my noticeboard. But if I've made a mistake, I'm affected only by my desire to do a good job, not adverse publicity.

What do you like/dislike about your job?

I can't think of a greater thrill than running out onto the pitch at 10 to three with the ball under my arm, a crowd of 60,000 people, and some of the world's best players beside me. It's a wonderful feeling. It may look like referees and players are in constant conflict, but aside from the odd decision, relations are very good. Still, it's the conflict that makes the headlines.

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