Hyundai A-League Referee in focus: Jarred Gillett

Jarred Gillett has been a Hyundai A-League referee since 2010 and a FIFA listed referee since 2013. Jarred has twice been named the Hyundai A-League Referee of the Year (2012 and 2015) and having refereed two Hyundai A-League Grand Finals, Jarred is one of Australia’s most experienced referees.

He shares some of his insights on being an elite referee in the Hyundai A-League.

How did you become involved in refereeing?
Contrary to public belief about referees, most of us have played the game at some level. I’m no different, having played at Mudgeeraba Soccer Club as a junior. I sat the entrance referees course at 12 years of age with the rest of my junior team, and began refereeing on weekends before or after the game I was playing in.

Can you describe a week in the life of a Hyundai A-League referee?
In two words – busy busy. We receive our appointments on a Monday afternoon for that weekend’s round of matches. A typical week includes a teleconference to debrief and analyse the previous weekend’s matches; physical training three times a week in the evenings; two individual gym sessions; and preparing mentally and tactically for the game ahead. We fly into the city of our match on game day usually (except for Wellington and Perth), giving us enough time for lunch, a short kip to charge the batteries, and then arrive at the ground 90 minutes before kick-off. The life of a full-time Hyundai A-League referee will look slightly different, in that I will be able to focus entirely on my preparation and training during the week without juggling another full-time career, much like a full-time professional player would do.

What do you do to keep a balance between your personal, professional and refereeing life?
It is extremely difficult to lead a balanced life as a Hyundai A-League referee. The preparation required to perform at the elite level week in, week out, dictates that much of my ‘spare’ time is dedicated to refereeing. I am forever indebted to my family, partner, and work colleagues who are hugely supportive. Without the support network of those around me, it would be impossible to do what I do. I do make sure that I find the time to spend with loved ones, and like to have a break of a few weeks following the season to get away from football completely. Becoming a full-time referee will hopefully improve the balance between my personal and refereeing life.

Jarred Gillett checks on the welfare of Sydney FC defender Jacques Faty.

How do you keep focused during a match and not let emotions influence decisions?
I was told once that as a referee you must keep your head, when everyone around you is losing theirs. Ultimately on the field we are judged by the decisions we make, and a calm, clear head has a greater chance of getting the decision right, than one running high on emotion. I use positive self-talk a lot during games to maintain my self-belief and calmness, as well as breaking the game down into smaller periods to keep my focus in the moment, without looking too far ahead.

In your opinion, what has been the biggest change in football in recent years?
From a refereeing perspective, it has become more about understanding football, understanding player behaviour, and understanding team tactics. The professional game is so quick now that we must be able to anticipate the game to give ourselves the best chance of getting a decision right. The ever increasing pace of the game has meant that the top referees around the world now are extremely fit athletes.

What is the key to building positive relationships with players and coaches?
Firstly I believe it is about being a good person, showing humility, and being true to yourself. It is a lot harder for someone to personally dissent, dislike or abuse you if they think you are a decent person. Secondly, I believe a key to this is communicating at the same level as the people you are trying to build a relationship with. There will be occasions as referees where we need to make difficult decisions, and won’t always be liked for doing it, but in the long-term I believe players and managers will respect you for doing the right thing and upholding your personal standards.

What do you consider to be the most important characteristic of an elite referee?
Self-belief. From a technical refereeing point of view – fitness is number one.

What match or moment stands out as a highlight in your refereeing career?
Receiving a phone call saying that I had been nominated to become a FIFA Referee.