A clip of Australian A-League referee, Jarred Gillett, went viral last week for all of the right reasons.
The Australian referee was in charge of officiating an A-League fixture between Western Sydney and Brisbane Roar and agreed to wear a microphone throughout the 90 minutes as part of an experiment.
Football fans across the world, and especially in the UK, praised the referee for his performance and for agreeing to be recorded. It is common practice in rugby for referees to wear microphones, which allows spectators to listen to the referee’s interactions with players and understand his or her reasoning for each decision. Football, in contrast, does not provide for similar arrangements. In the USA, many sports including the NFL and NBA incorporate a “Mic’d Up” feature where referees, coaches and players are mic’d up and clips of them are broadcast during commercial breaks, offering fans a unique insight into the communication and conduct of professionals during the game.
The introduction of VAR has assisted referees in many leagues and competitions, granting fans an insight into how more controversial decisions are made. The use of a microphone would further bridge the gap between referees and fans.
Gillett appeared to apply the rules of the game clearly and decisively in real time. There were flashes of humour and banter between the referee and players, suggesting that the technology could hold players more accountable for their conduct and attitude towards officials, highlighting a greater level of respect between players and referees.
The five-time A-League referee of the year will be transferring across to the UK to join the Championship’s roster of referees. We could see him in the Premier League sporting a microphone sooner than we think.