Abuse, Bribes and Pressure

Players, coaches, commentators, fans. When you’re a ref or match official, everyone has an opinion about your performance on the field.

Abuse, Bribes and Pressure: A Ref's Calling

In this episode of the On Side podcast, we talk with retired Australian football referee Ben Williams, NRL ref Kasey Badger and union ref Grant Jones, about pressures faced by sport officials and referees.



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    Podcast intro: Welcome to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia. Our mission is to protect the integrity of sport and the health and welfare of those who participate in Australian sport.

    Tim Gavel: Hello and welcome to On Side, I'm Tim Gavel. In this episode we're looking at match officials in sport, referees and umpires are constantly in the spotlight. They're under enormous pressure to get the decisions right.

    • So, what motivates them?
    • How do they cope with the pressure and social media?

    Our guests are former leading Australian soccer referee Ben Williams, who officiated in some of the world's biggest tournaments, including the World Cup in Brazil.

    Kasey Badger referees in the New South Wales Cup rugby league competition and has been a touch judge for the NRL for over 110 games and is close to making her debut as an NRL referee. In many respects, Kasey is a trailblazer for women seeking to be involved in the sport, especially as a referee.

    And our third guest is Grant Jones. Grant played first grade rugby union for the Queanbeyan Whites in the ACT competition. He's also been involved in match day activities such as running the water. A few years ago, he was called before the judiciary and was informed that he had to do a referee's course, he's now a referee. We'll hear from all three in just a moment.

    And excitement is building with just over a month to go until the Olympic Games. With Tokyo 2020 fast approaching, we've designed an educational course to help competing Australian Olympic on Australian Paralympic team members navigate the rules and legislation around doping control. And coming up soon is our special podcast series, Clean and Gold, which will celebrate everything Olympic and Paralympic. 



    Tim Gavel: Well, our first guest is former leading A-League and international soccer referee Ben Williams, and Ben just how much pressure are referees and sporting officials under in this modern day? Because not only happens on the field, you've got obviously people on the sideline and in the crowd, but also social media, it seems as though there's a lot of pressure on referees and match officials these days. 

    Ben Williams: Yeah, well there's always going to be pressure on officials, and I guess the way the professional sport has gone now it's moving more towards a business, and teams and clubs and sports need to make money to be sustainable. So, we get that as officials and I guess that's why there is that pressure because you know, if there's results that go the wrong way, coaches get sacked, players have to move clubs, it may be that a team loses their franchise etcetera.

    So we understand all that pressure, at the same time really, the pressure placed upon referees is within our, between our two years, you know so it's the pressure we place on ourselves to perform and no referee really goes out there to be the centre of attention and take all the glory because if you're doing that, well you decide not to be a referee in the first place, it is about the game and you know, that's, that's what you want, the focus on and at the same time, if called upon, in your duties and responsibilities you're called upon at various times to make calls that you know are required by the game and sometimes those decisions change the game, and you hope that that's not the case and you hope that the decisions that you take are the correct ones.

    So that's really the pressure, it's about the same as a striker would want to score goals or a goalkeeper wants to stop goals, referees want to make sure that they're getting their decisions and fulfilling their role the best that they possibly can. 

    Tim Gavel: Integrity is the key, isn't it? To being a good referee. 

    Ben Williams: 100%. And in fact, that's your currency. Your credibility and your integrity has to be your currency because in order for you to perform, you need people to trust you. And if you don't have any integrity, or if you've lost, you know, there's a shine that's taken off, then you lose the trust of the people whether that be the viewing public, whether that be the teams or the coaches.

    And therefore, your performance is always critiqued that little bit more. You don't want those kinds of connotations around you as a referee and that was something that I was always really strong around is that I wanted my integrity was never, never to be bought. 

    Tim Gavel: Were there attempts to buy you? 

    Ben Williams: Yeah absolutely. Gone were the days of the old brown paper bag, but lots of trips overseas where there was gifts, you know, there was bags of stuff left on my hotel room door. So, we've got a whole process that we go through.

    We had lots of presentations with Interpol because of organised crime out there obviously football being probably the biggest sport in the world, there's a lot of money involved and usually, and this is what I learnt through Interpol was that they would go for the players first, they had the most direct way to influence a match, and then the next ones were the referees. Usually because referees aren't paid anything like the players are and they've got other things, you know going on so I always in my mentality was nothing for nothing, you know. So, if there's gifts and we had boundaries around what kind of gifts could be given and costings and all that kind of stuff.

    You know if it was a team had won the championship, they were allowed to provide you the jersey and all that, all those kinds of things but there was times where they would take you shopping and, you know, maybe it was a flat screen TV, so "Anything in here you can have it". So I was really particular and I didn't just work with people from Australia, worked with people from other countries, and they wanted to accept, you know, and if I was the referee or I was the captain of the team and I said "Well whatever you normally do that's, on my team that's not happening", and so we would go and I'd report to the much commissioner, match referee assessor to make sure that this, everything was out there straightaway before the game and that they knew that I was not, not corruptible. 

    Tim Gavel: I would imagine there are referees that are corruptible. 

    Ben Williams: Absolutely and I guess in every profession right across the board, there's going to be good people on bad people and people that make choices that they probably shouldn't, and at the end of the day we have to do what's best for the game. It's bigger than you know the fans, it's bigger than the players, it's, it's certainly bigger than the referees and, and we want to try and make sure that the game is left in a better place than we found it.

    So, if I would put my selfishness in front of that whole gambit of the game, well I'm certainly not doing my job and that's what, that's really what it is and that's, that's selfishness when people take bribes or, or their integrity is allowed to be clouded, then they're not doing what is in the best interests of the game. 

    Tim Gavel: Have you ever refereed a game where you thought that match fixing might have been taking place? 

    Ben Williams: There was one match I remember where I didn't find out until after the game because I just went out and referee the way I was supposed to referee and I found out that the result was supposed to be, you know, it was supposed to be 3-1. 

    Tim Gavel: And what was the score? 

    Ben Williams: It wasn't 3-1 [LAUGHTER]. Yeah so, now they must have known that to try and come to me, wasn't going to be, you know, I wasn't going to let that door open even a tiny, tiny inch because they knew that I would report too. And that was the thing, anyone that would come to me with gifts or sometimes it was women, you know, they would try anything, so always nothing for nothing. You know, 

    Tim Gavel: So, they tried to get you in a compromising situation? 

    Ben Williams: Oh I remember one particular country it was even after the match, so it wasn't even trying to set me up for, for match fixing it was actually in a few weeks' time other Australian officials were coming and they said "Oh you've got a very long flight ahead of you, it's really important that you relax.", I knew exactly what was going on I said "No, nobody's coming to my room", and I told my two assistant referees "You receive a knock on the door, don't answer it.", because there were other Australian referees that we're going to be there in a couple of weeks' time and their hope was that we would tell them, you know that we were offered all this and then they would be the beneficiaries of that. Not on my watch. 

    Tim Gavel: What about the abuse? Because you copped more than your fair share of abuse, didn't you? I saw one headline, "Glorious career", and all that sort of, Twitter rejoices because they just love to get into you didn't they. How did you respond to that and what sort of abuse did you get? 

    Ben Williams: Yeah well, I mean the people that write all that stuff and say all that stuff and the keyboard warriors, they don't know me. They don't know Ben Williams. The people that I know and love they know who I am and really, they're the only opinions that matter.

    So, in terms of refereeing performances, I know if I have a bad match, my wife will still love me, my family will still love me, and if I have a great match, they'll still love me. The referee assessors, we are in terms of integrity, you're scrupulous in terms of the assessment and the analysis that goes on. Whereas I don't think the viewing public generally understand that, they think "Oh the referee just turns up on the day, and if they like our team, they'll give a decision this way and if they don't, they'll send somebody off or give a penalty against us", and you know, I think people like jumping on the bandwagon too, and it's a bit like theatre, sport is theatre, and sometimes theatre needs villains and I guess I got, I got painted that way a little bit in Australia.

    But at the end of the day well that's, you know, that was out of my control, all I could go out and do was perform the best that I knew how, that I'd been trained at AFC level and at FIFA level, got the latest information from the top dogs right, you know, right in Zurich, so I had to go into each match thinking "Well, who knows their job better than anyone else? I know my job better than anyone else, better than anyone on the Twitter sphere, you know the fans in the stadium, of course everyone's entitled to their opinion.

    You know when I'm a fan, of course we always look at it from a from a different angle because when the Socceroos are playing or whether in Australia's playing in the cricket, you want your country and your team to do well, whereas referees we have to be straight down the line because it is about that integrity. 

    Tim Gavel: I remember a particular match, Iran versus Iraq at Canberra Stadium 2015, it was a quarter final in the Asian Football Confederation, can you tell us the aftermath of that game? Because you got death threats, and you were worried about the safety of your family? 

    Ben Williams: Yeah, well look even before the match we, myself and my two assistant referees we looked at the draw and we thought, "Do you know what? If this team goes through from this group and this team gets through from that group, it could be Iran versus Iraq in Canberra.", you know, and we knew that was a big match and we said they're the types of matches that you want to be involved in. You want to be pinning yourself up against the best and the most challenging situations.

    Now, in all of my matches and I refereed a lot, that was probably the most challenging match I've ever had. There was so much more than football at stake that day, two countries that have been at war for nine years, it was never going to be a walk in the park. So, I was quite proud that they trusted me, AFC trusted me and my, my team to take part in that match and take control of that match.

    Now yeah, there was a situation early in the in the match where I had to caution one Iranian player and then later on, just before halftime he dived in the penalty area, and he was trying to cheat. So, we talk about integrity, he was trying to take the integrity away from that game. Now I'd asked him a number of times to get up because there was nothing, nothing doing, and he said, "Nah there's something here", and I said "Look, that's it. That's it. If you can't do it, it's going to be a yellow card.", and so I gave him the yellow card and I walked off and probably the thing that I did wrong was not immediately identify that because he was sitting on the ground I couldn't see his number, that it was the same player that I cautioned earlier on.

    So, two yellow cards a red card so that's where the controversy came in, the decisions themselves were fine but I guess that delay maybe people thought the credibility was gone. Anyway, that was certainly the angle that the Iranian coach took, and then the Australian media really jumped on and because I was already the villain in the A League, they jumped on that and then. 

    Tim Gavel: Well, the coach actually walked onto the field at the end of the game, I was watching it in the grandstand I thought now there's something happening here because of the fire that was generated in the match in the crowd. 

    Ben Williams: Yeah. 

    Tim Gavel: You could have been worrying for your safety there. 

    Ben Williams: To be honest I don't remember that [LAUGHTER]. There's that much going on and that match had absolutely everything. So, from the from the purest, or from the, if you weren't aligned to Iran or Iraq, so many people that I speak to now, that have been in Canberra and weren't even football people said "Oh I was at that game, it had everything! And the crowd was going bananas."

    You know, so I actually feel really blessed to be selected for that match and be out there in the middle. And even with the drama and the theatre of it all, the two very, very experienced Iranian, the captain and one of the other Iranian players had spent 10 or 12 years in, in European football, in the heat of the moment they turned to me and we'd known each other for a long time, and they said "Man have you ever been involved in a game like this?", and I said, they said "You've been around a while, we've been around a while, how about this?", and we both, we had a moment but at the same time they were also the ones trying to put pressure on you because they want you, they want to try and bend your integrity really, all for the benefit for their team.

    Now, even with the coach coming on at the end of a game, that's all, that's all the theatre because the coach is being paid money by a, you know people to do a job and then it's easier to deflect on to a referee then say "You know what? We were beaten.". And look a send-off can change a match, but at the same time cheating can change a match as well and that, that's why I guess we get entrusted with the whistle and you know, I don't shy away from that. 

    Tim Gavel: What about the aftermath? 

    Ben Williams: The aftermath? Well, the referees we were based at Homebush for the whole tournament so unless it was a Brisbane game, we would drive to and from the matches. So, you drive in and stayed the night before, so we got put up at the Hyatt here in Canberra and yes, I did the match and then we had our bags packed already and the idea was straight out of Bruce Stadium back up the highway.

    We had the AFP were with every refereeing trio, every refereeing team for every match and we got to know them really well. They were a really good bunch of guys and girls that were there to look after us, keep our safety because you know, it's also keeping the integrity of sport and then they, those particular police officers would, went onto the cricket 2020 World Cup.

    So, I received, I'm not on social media, never have been never will be because people are never going to say, "It was a really well refereed game and "Had really allowed the game to flow", and all the adulation but, but my wife is and I spoke to her after the game and I said "Look, just, just don't read it. Just, just turn it off. Don't read it.", and I, yeah, there were death threats, I had a three-month-old at that stage, so they were saying "Oh we'll kill your wife or your child", and to the point where my wife did read it and didn't feel safe staying at home, so she went and stayed with her mum that night.

    And for me that's too far and, and where again, that's out of my control but this is where some of the credibility for the sport needs to come in and that's some of the Australian media unfortunately that kind of really propagated that hate and I'd like to think I'm pretty strong minded, pretty resilient type of person, but my family's off, off limits. And at the same time people that maybe weren't mentally as strong potentially, you know, there could be a whole heap of depression and anxiety that come from this for match officials, because I think that's often what people forget too is that match officials are humans.

    And I listened to your podcast with, [on mental health] with some of the former athletes and the psychologists and we talk a lot about the mental health of athletes but there's also massive problems with mental health of officials because they're not, not as well resourced, and there's been situations where you know, been big decisions that have changed matches not just here in Australia but right around the world, and there's been situations where officials have felt that pressure that you spoke about at that start and have gone on and done the unthinkable and committed suicide, and that's certainly not the answer.

    So that's why I've always been one to kind of stand up and try and speak up, if people don't think I'm popular because of that I don't care, it's about again doing what's right for the game. 

    Tim Gavel: When you retired was it a relief more than anything else? 

    Ben Williams: Yeah look, I think it was. All through my career I never really allowed myself to get run away with what we were achieving. And I say we as in my assistants and I because we did it as a team but now, now, upon retirement, I can reflect and think well I was that little, little kid in, in Kambah, in Canberra, that thought, saw the Olympics on TV and thought "Wow, how good with that be?", and saw the World Cup on TV and thought "Oh unbelievable!”, and I lived it so I didn't allow, we didn't allow ourselves to kind of lose our focus at the time of going through it but now upon reflection, we're really proud of what we did.

    In terms of relief, I remember the moment I was in the middle of an A-League match when I realised, I don't want to do this anymore. You know and I've got a little girl at that stage, and you know, she's standing on the end of a narrow bridge saying, "Daddy please don't go.", and really that's, I got to the point where I thought "You know what? I've achieved what I want to achieve in sport.".

    I spoke with my wife, "Can we go another four years for another World Cup?", and it's a big ask for a family and she said "I don't think we can, I don't think we can do that.", and out of respect for her, I want to be with my family so that was the kind of time I decided to say "Well, you know, now it's now it's time to rather let the next generation come through and go and spend time with my beautiful family". 

    Tim Gavel: The media came in for special attention I notice in a player's voice piece that you did. You said that the media in Australia, really didn't understand football and they generated a lot of hate towards you. On reflection do you still think that was the case? 

    Ben Williams: Yeah, I think there's a responsibility because we need to think about people as people first and foremost. It doesn't matter whether they, you know they've got a disability, doesn't matter if they're black, it doesn't matter if they're white, it doesn't matter if they're a player being paid lots of money, it doesn't matter if they're referee. We need to treat people with respect. And I don't feel that I got that respect.

    I don't, you know it's not you become a referee and it's instantaneous, you have to earn respect and it wasn't actually about me, I still see now I've been retired going on 4.5 years now and nothing's changed. Nothing's changed. Has the level of respect increased for referees? I don't think so, I think it's actually probably gone backwards.

    We talk about the VAR now, that kind of, I retired just before that came in and that was going to be the big "This will solve all our problems", and "The referee's refereeing so terrible that we need video referees", and now what happens? People are still talking in coffee shops about the VAR. "Oh, should they have got involved?", "Did they do the right thing?", "Did they not?", you know, people are never going to be happy.

    So, for me, it comes back to that respect. Let's just show people respect. And the same way that a striker earning $200 million a year can miss a goal right in front of, right in front of goal or a goalkeeper misses an absolute sitter and they're being paid all that money, that's accepted? "Oh, bad luck", "Oh get the next opportunity.", for referees that's never accepted.

    And we think about the resourcing that goes into match officials and not, not just in my sport but in all sports versus that goes into players, it's chalk and cheese. So, it comes back to that level of respect. Let's treat people the way we want to be treated. Would you like that being said about your family. Your loved one? Your children? Your mum? Your dad? No? Okay well let's take a little bit of a step back and realise what, what can be the hurtful thing that comes from those words. 

    Tim Gavel: If I could just ask you a final question, do you think in Australia we really struggle to show respect to people in control in positions of power or authority. Do you think that's part of it in Australia? 

    Ben Williams: Yeah, I. think so. I think so. It's hard because, you know, I'm a proud Aussie, a proud Aussie, love where we are in the lucky country and we're so lucky. Every time I used to fly back into Australia, and you breathe that sigh of relief. Because even though you might have been off to another great opportunity overseas, flying back to our country is the best thing in the world and we know that now even more with all the COVID stuff.

    In terms of respecting that authority, certain countries have that level given. You think about Japan and China and to teachers and police and all that kind of stuff, I think if there was a police officer sitting where I am right now, they'd certainly never say they'd get respect. They don't get the respect they deserve; they get spat on and all this kind of stuff.

    I'm a teacher also, it's something that you need to earn, and I think at the crux of all this it comes down to relationships. It comes down to relationships and the more that we can spend and understand people from their different side of things, what's, what is their story? I guess refereeing doesn't usually get an opportunity to tell its story, so people don't understand so they go and make assumptions and often those assumptions were wrong because they're not an uneducated assumption and I guess when I, when I fired back in the media that's pretty much what I was saying, everyone's entitled to their opinion but make it an uneducated one.

    Come down, we invited some Fox sports people down to our, our referees camp, fulltime referees camp when we were, when we were there and they turned up late and came in and rather than be an observer about how we went through post-match analysis and preparation for the next matches, they kind of stood up and thought that they were the, they were the guest keynote speaker and started telling us how to do our job.

    Well, no, this is our workplace, you need to respect it the same way. I wouldn't go into somebody else's workplace and tell them how to do their job. You come to seek understanding and I think with understanding, this goes far beyond refereeing, this is the black lives matter, this is how we treat our indigenous people, how we treat women, you know how we treat people with disabilities.

    This is this is about coming back to that respect, and I think the more we share the forums that we have like this where we can talk about different sides and different opinions, then we can understand "Oh I didn't know that about them. Maybe, maybe next time I won't be so harsh to be critical, I'll actually come in from the empathetic point of view", and at the end of the day that's going to be the better thing for sport. That's going to be the better thing for sport.

    You know, when COVID hit us, as people loving sport, you know there was so many parents that thought "Oh, I don't get, you don't get to take our kids to sport, we're saving all this money and we're doing all these other things maybe I won't go back to sport.". Now more than ever we need to come together, all facets of every single game, not just football every single game, we need to come together and understand and take our country forward. And that will improve the mental wellbeing of all of us and the physical wellbeing of all of us and you know that's the health of the population and hopefully that's the kind of trajectory what we want to be on for Australia as a sporting nation.

    Getting back to those days where we are going off to Tokyo and winning all these gold medals and going off to World Cups and you know, we've got a lot of success still, you know, you think about the Matilda's and the women cricket team and you know, so there's still a lot of that. We've gotta make sure that we don't fall by the wayside, and we keep the big picture in front of our minds at all times. 

    Tim Gavel: Ben, thanks very much for joining us on On Side it's been great to chat. 

    Ben Williams: Thank you very much Tim. 



    Tim Gavel: This is On Side. Well, our next guest is rugby league referee Kasey Badger, and Kasey is passionate about the game she started refereeing in year 12, and Kasey I would imagine an unusual pursuit for somebody in year 12. 

    Kasey Badger: Yeah, it's not on the regular list of sports to choose from. I guess. I started playing the game as a four year old and played through till I was 12 and back then there were no avenues for girls to continue playing through sort of teenage years, there was a women's competition but I had to wait till I turned 18 to play there, so when I was 16 in high school I just had a friend who wanted to go and do the referee's course and he basically just wanted someone to go along with him, just for company so I went "All right yeah I'll give that a crack", not really thinking much of it I sort of thought it would be a piece of paper, a certificate that I would put in my CV when I left school, but all of a sudden started doing it and fell in love with it. 

    Tim Gavel: Apart from your sheer passion for the game, what do you like about it? 

    Kasey Badger: I think it's an extremely challenging pursuit. I don't think there's many things, many sports that throw up as many challenges as refereeing does. Obviously firstly I love the game of rugby league, but I also love, I love to be challenged and when you referee there are so many things you need to take into account. No two games are alike, no two situations are alike, you're continually learning, you're continually challenged, and you need to make decisions quickly. You don't have time to really think and process and take your time to weigh things up, you have to do things very instinctively and that was just something that really appealed to me. 

    Tim Gavel: So obviously you've been in the system for a little while now, you've been in the NRL system for six seasons full time for the last two, do you feel as though you're just on the cusp at the moment of getting a first-grade game as a referee? 

    Kasey Badger: Yeah, I do although I have felt like that for a few years now so hopefully, hopefully it does come. Obviously 2020 threw you know a big spanner in the works for everyone in terms of their career development. You know, the competition was stopped, we went back from two refs to one ref on the field so obviously any opportunity was cut in half and prior to that I also had a pretty bad run of injuries. I had a few back-to-back surgeries and a few things that sort of kept me not, not in the physical space that I wanted to be in, so I definitely feel like I'm mentally ready, I feel, I definitely feel physically ready now it's just a matter of waiting for an opportunity to present itself. 

    Tim Gavel: It's very much a male domain, how do you find that aspect of it? Because you know you're refereeing men’s sport and I would imagine that there is a bit of you know that male dominance as I've just mentioned, how do you cope with that? 

    Kasey Badger: Yeah, there definitely is because it's one of those things that be involved in it for so long, you do become accustomed to it because, because from day one it's, that's just the landscape of the sport, the landscape off the job. I guess for me to be able to get through it I just had to know that I was doing everything right and I knew that I knew that I knew the game.

    I did everything I could to do as much work on the game as, from a football side of things and from a refereeing side, a technical refereeing side of things so that I felt so confident that it didn't matter that I was, that I was in that male dominated industry because I felt so, so ready for it. I felt so knowledgeable in that in that space, so it sort of didn't bother me but there, there are small things along the way, and even, even to this day where the system is catered for men, it's much more comfortable to be, to be a man in this industry than it is to be a woman so there are little things that are just daily little battles to get through but slowly the industry is changing. 

    Tim Gavel: What about the players? How did they react to you? Because you know, there's yourself and Belinda Sharp, very much well-known referee. How do they react to you? 

    Kasey Badger: Yeah, from why experience, once you've hit the semi-professional and then professional game, I found the players outstanding. I think in the lower levels of the game, that's where I found more, more challenges around that park football level or entry level through the ranks. That's when there seems to be more pressure on you or more personal attacks on you for being female.

    At the elite level, the players the players are outstanding. I've actually found that I think sometimes they respond better to me than they do to some of the guys. It's a catch 22 in being a female in such a male dominated industry with the players in that you become more recognisable a lot earlier on, and sometimes that can be good and sometimes it can be bad.

    So where a male referee might referee a team early on in the season and for whatever reason that team or that player didn't like that referee or that performance or a certain decision and then that referee has them 10 weeks, 12 weeks later, in the lower grade, in the sort of just below NRL grades, a lot of the times the players wouldn't remember that referee 10, 12 weeks later, whereas they remember you as a female and like sometimes if you're performing well, that could be a good thing. I think, I think at the elite level of the players have, I have felt that they have a certain level of respect for Belinda and I in seeing what we do and sort of understanding that we are, you know unique as females in the game and I think there's a certain level of respect that they've shown us, I can't speak highly enough for the players at the elite level. 

    Tim Gavel: What about abuse on social media and from the fans, how do you cope with that? 

    Kasey Badger: Yeah, it's an interesting one. I think for referees I think it's very; it becomes a very personal decision as to whether you get on social media or not. For myself and I know my husband's been very similar, were very active on social media. We see it as something that allows us a way communicate with fans and give our point of view on things, explain certain rules.

    There was something that happened in a State of Origin game the other night that someone tweeted a question to me, and I just responded back with what the ruling was, and it can become a positive engagement piece there. But on the other side you can, it's very easy for people to send abusive messages, you know you go into your DMs folder, and they'll be after games there can be a bunch of messages or mentions there which are negative, which unfortunately it shouldn't happen, but it does it's a very easy space for people to criticise you.

    So, for me I find that I can, I can deal with that, I can cope with that criticism, it doesn't get me down I don't I don't dwell on it so I see the positives of social media where I can promote refereeing, promote referees as just being fans of the game and show that positive side of what we do. But I totally understand for other people how being on social media can become too much, the abuse can, can become quite disheartening. 

    Tim Gavel: Both yourself and your husband Gavin, Gavin Badger well known referee, now retired and involved in the West Tigers amongst other teams, you come across with high integrity. How important is integrity in refereeing do you think? 

    Kasey Badger: Oh, it's the number one thing. If you want to be a referee, at, at any level, the number one thing that you've got is your integrity. Everyone, everyone makes mistakes, no one is going to be perfect it doesn't matter how many games you've done it doesn't matter what level of the game you're at, no, no refereeing performance is perfect just the same way is no playing performance is perfect but as long as you're making your decisions with, with integrity, that's all that that anyone can really ask of you and a lot of the times of the elite at the elite level, with refereeing perception of your integrity can be a big thing as well.

    So there can be small things that you do when you move about the community or where you speak to people in public or on social media, where you can have all the integrity in the world but it can come across as, as, perhaps as there's parts you don't, there’s small things people pick on, you could be out with your kids and because you're in a rug, you’re a rugby league family of course your kids love the game and your kids might be wearing the jersey of a team or like a certain player or cheer for a certain team or whatever it might be and people can see that as perhaps that you don't have the integrity that you should have. So, there's a real fine balance in refereeing between perception and reality as well. 

    Tim Gavel: Yes, you're right there and your husband Gavin is your number one supporter, isn't he? 

    Kasey Badger: Absolutely. 

    Tim Gavel: He's been there, done that. How do you find it at home? Do you argue about refereeing decisions that you're watching on TV at the time? 

    Kasey Badger: The way I try to explain to people is that like in many, many relationships and many marriages there are people who just, who love the game so they talk about rugby league and for us that, that's no different rugby league is something that we both grew up with, it's something that we both absolutely love so of course we talk about it, but we talk about it in all aspects, we talk about it with development and pathways of the game.

    Where Gavin works at the moment, New South Wales Rugby league he's heavily invested in the junior pathways and development with refereeing, so we talk about it from that aspect, we talk about it when just the games on TV just as fans of the game just watching a game, watching certain players and how the game unfolds.

    And then of course, refereeing conversations come up as well, a lot of the things we think in terms of rules and refereeing is very, is very similar but there is occasionally things that way do disagree on but like anyone you just have that conversation and yeah, we just loved the game. So, for us, our lives revolve a lot around rugby league, but it never feels like it's, like it's too much. 

    Tim Gavel: That's great Kasey. Thanks very much for joining us today on On Side it's been great to have a chat and your insights are very, very valuable I think to young referees in particular coming through. Thanks again for your time. 

    Kasey Badger: No problem at all. Thank you very much for having me. 



    Tim Gavel: Our third guest is former first grade rugby union player in the ACT competition Grant Jones, he's now a referee. Well Grant how did you become involved in refereeing? How did it all start for you? 

    Grant Jones: I was running water for first grade, and I said something to the touch judge along the lines off, you know, "When's this referee going to give us a crack?", or "Now he owes one after that decision", or something along those lines. It was a game at Jameson and it wasn't, I didn't swear, I didn't you know, but it was something I shouldn't have said, anyway I got referred to the judiciary as a result, Adam Fay was the coach of first grade at the time and, and suggested that part of my rehabilitation will be that Grant will do the, the requirements for it to become a level one referee and referee some games and I did that.

    When I said I was going to do it I I made sure I did it and I did two junior games end of that season and well that wasn't too bad and yeah sort of went from there and refereed from junior games then 2018-19. 2019 I started get opportunities with some senior games and sort of just done senior games since. 

    Tim Gavel: So, did it surprise you when you started doing it you realised what referees go through? 

    Grant Jones: Ah it did, it did surprise me from, from a viewpoint that there is more to look at in a game than what you might look at from a spectator like an example might be you've got a scrum and you've gotta worry about the bind, you gotta worry about the back rower staying on, you gotta worry about the backs being on side and then you're looking at the ball coming out the back and then you're looking at if somebody's infringing at the front of the scrum, then you're looking at have they crept up off side?

    So it probably surprises, like when you're sitting on the sideline and you're only looking at things you want to look at or the things that go against your team, so I suppose it surprised me that, the challenges they face in making the decisions and getting them right and I think I realised now that referees aren't always going to get them right, so yeah. 

    Tim Gavel: Have you copped any abuse yourself? 

    Grant Jones: No, I haven't. I don't know if that's luck or whether it's a sign of me doing something, I think, I think I, I think I benefit from being a former player and knowing the club scene in Canberra quite well. So, when I go to a game, you know quite often I'll, I'll talk to the coach or the captain or somebody from the club beforehand and they know who I am, and I think I have a respect that I've come from where they are to become a referee and I think that has helped me. That's not to say that it doesn't happen, but for me personally I haven't copped abuse. Yes, I've gotten "Oh come on ref", or "He's offside" or you know, "Your kidding", or that sort of thing but not abuse as such. 

    Tim Gavel: Do you think that more players should become match officials? Whether it be rugby union or AFL, rugby league? 

    Grant Jones: Oh absolutely. 

    Tim Gavel: Yeah? 

    Grant Jones: Absolutely. I've spoken to people that are involved in AFL and league and obviously a lot of people in rugby union, I, and this is easy for me to say and it's no disrespect to the officials that haven't done this, but I think people that come from a club as a player or even a coach or that sort of thing, I think if more players and people involved in clubs become referees I actually think it will help lift the standard of referees and I hope, not many people pay attention to what I do but, but I hope that I can help from our club at least break down those barriers. It's not going to be, it's not gonna happen overnight but I hope that it does happen. 

    Tim Gavel: Tell us about when you were playing, obviously players say things to referees, were you one of those players? 

    Grant Jones: Yeah, yeah, I was. Yep, I'm embarrassed to say I was I would have a crack at referees and that's sort of thing and it, and I'd always be embarrassed afterwards and like I'm a very competitive person and I can be short tempered and, and I would say something you know, in the heat of the moment to a referee and go "Shit I shouldn't have done that.", but, and I feel as though opinions were made of me within ACT rugby because of the competitive nature I have and, and yeah I absolutely said things I shouldn't have said to referees and yeah. And part of me is glad that I've done it because I sort of feel as though I'm giving back a little bit to the Referees Association that you know I probably gave a hard time to for a while. 

    Tim Gavel: Obviously your former teammates, are they surprised to see you refereeing now given that you were so vocal towards referees when you were playing? 

    Grant Jones: Yes I suppose they are surprised but I suppose friends of mine, good friends of mine aren't surprised that it's something that I challenge myself to do and I suppose a lot of them would, would argue that you always thought you knew the, thought you knew the laws of the games so that it was only natural that you decided to do it yourself. So yeah, I think yes and no would be the answer to that question. 

    Tim Gavel: Have you got aspirations to go higher in refereeing? 

    Grant Jones: I didn't when I started. I was like "Nup. I'm happy to do junior games and 3rd and 4th grade and help to lift the standard", but I think naturally the type of person I am and the more I get involved I go "Yes I do want to, I do want to", and it's probably to challenge myself more than more than anything. I, like I've started to a couple of Colts Games now and go "Jeez that's, that's a step up", and I've enjoyed that challenge and yeah so I suppose I would have aspirations to move into second grade and Colts more permanently and then if good enough an opportunity arose further yeah. 

    Tim Gavel: There is a problem at the moment isn't there? In encouraging people to become referees? 

    Grant Jones: Absolutely. 

    Tim Gavel: People say, "Oh well I’m not gonna go get abused", "people won't like me", "I'll have no friends", there are many aspects to it aren't there? 

    Grant Jones: Yeah. I don't know what, like I don't know what the single biggest deterrent is. Abuse is the one that's always trotted out by the referee's association as the biggest deterrent and it might be that that is, you know the referees that do give it away.

    I, personally I think it's more the stigma of somebody going from club land and moving in to be a referee "Oh bloody referees, they're hopeless", and whatever and you don't want to be as, your mates to say, "You're one of them now?". Where I've been able to, you know like I'm Vice President of Queanbeyan Whites. I'm very much involved in my club and then I can still go and referee a game on the weekend. So, it's sort of like I think people think they need to be referee or they need to be associated with a club where I don't think that's necessarily the case. I, you know I think I'm an example of that. 

    Tim Gavel: Good on you Grant, great to see you out there refereeing on a weekly basis in Canberra and hopefully it encourages more players to become involved in being match officials, not just rugby union. 

    Grant Jones: I hope so yeah. 

    Tim Gavel: Good on you Grant, thanks very much for joining us today. 

    Grant Jones: Thanks Tim. 



    Podcast Transition: And now for our segment From Left Field, where we answer a question from the public. 

    Laura Brittain: Today's question is "What is an athlete biological passport and why do we use it?". The athlete biological passport is an electronic record that monitors a number of biological variables within an athlete. This record is developed over time through multiple sample collections and can reveal certain biomarkers of doping that indicate an athlete is using a prohibited substance.

    This method is yet another way we can detect doping but does not require the substance itself to be a detected. It's important to remember that there are 11 anti-doping rule violations and only one of them requires our positive test. 

    Tim Gavel: Thanks for listening to On Side I'm Tim Gavel. And a reminder we'll be releasing our Clean and Gold podcast series in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. See you soon. 

    Podcast Outro: You've been listening to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia. Send in your podcast questions or suggestions to; media@sportintegrity.gov.au.

    For more information on Sport Integrity Australia please visit our website sportintegrity.gov.au or check out our Clean Sport app