focus on the REFEREES

When you are a referee, every decision you give gets judged, most of the time by people who wouldn’t recognise a let from a net. You are very often 60 yards from the court and are required to make a split second judgement on shots you can’t even see. Because of the “code of conduct” you are not allowed to talk back. In the best of cases, you get ignored, and in the worst cases, you get insulted. And, not only do you not get paid for it ...


Well, ladies and gentlemen, what is REALLY surprising is that there are still referees around!

I wouldn’t do it. Would you?

Framboise talks to some of our National, International and World referees to find out what it's really like in the hot seat ...

what the REFS think

Larger than life character ...

When we sat down in the Refs office, upstairs at the National Squash Centre in Manchester during the Nationals 2004, he started by saying “Are you going to ask me questions, is that what it is?”… I knew I was going to have a good time!

An Independent mortgage adviser by profession, he is the only World Referee left in England, he is very much appreciated by the players, and his natural authority and calm make him the “perfect referee”.

When did you start refereeing?
I started playing squash at school because the school I was in had squash courts. I became captain of the school team, and the captain of the school team was required to become a referee. That was in 1955.

Did you have to go through
an examination of some sort?

Yes, I had to pass an exam under the old system, with the grades being A, B, C, D. You would start with D and work up to A. So, I passed my “D”, and barely refereed for years.

So when does it all really start?
It was purely a chance issue about 20 years ago: a match between Gawain Briars and Stuart Davenport, and the people who should have been refereeing the match were held up in a car accident. I played in the teams with the club manager, and he realised that I knew more about refereeing than the average player. He was completely stuck and asked me to do the refereeing. So I sat there, and did the 1st game. They didn’t know who I was and tried a few things on, and at the end of the game, the referees who should have been appointed arrived so I got up to leave, and the players said “Where are you going?” The two referees were actually senior referees, and one of them was responsible for grading referees. At that point they said “we need you to do some more refereeing”.
When you started refereeing,
20 years ago, did you have any ambition?

No. I never asked for anything! People just suddenly came along and said, “we’re now going to upgrade you”. I was assessed, but I didn’t ask for assessments. And as a result of those, I kept moving up.

You mentioned “the old system”.
What is the “new system”?

Now you have County, Tournament, National, that is in this country. Then there is International and World.

How many World referees are there in England?
One, and you’re talking to him, I’m afraid!

A lot of rules have changed since 1955. In terms of refereeing, did you feel major changes as well?
Yes, those rules changes have brought a greater emphasis on “playing the ball”. There is nothing worse in terms of getting money into the game, and as a television sport, than to have lots of interruptions, or rallies where public can’t understand why it stopped. Nowadays, referees try to make sure that players play the ball, and don’t get easy points.








Why do you like refereeing?
I’ve done it for a long time. I like the people who play squash. You enjoy the process really, and if you are a good referee, you do get respect from the players.

For example, some of the lady players have said to me, when I’ve been at an event, not doing much, “why aren’t you doing some refereeing? You are the best!” It is very rarely said to you, very rarely said.

As I always say, when you get to the end of a match and both players walk out of the court and acknowledge you by putting their racquets up, that’s all you can expect. Players do not normally come up to you and say it.

Is the job getting easier with experience?
Sometimes I referee some players and there are no problems, and somebody else does it, and there are all sorts of problems, and they are not making any different decisions. But then, when I talk with the players, they say “we know you, we respect you, we didn’t know him”. So they challenge him, whereas they know me, they know what I’m going to do.

We all make mistakes, we are human beings, but all the referees who are world qualified should be making the right decisions, and an important part of it is managing a match, which it seems that generally speaking, I’m accredited with doing quite well.

For example, if they want to know what side they are serving from, what is normally said? “left box!”. I say “From the left please”, and that sort of thing.

Pardon me for being a bit straight to the point,
but it’s a bit the “packaging” around the
refereeing itself, isn’t it?

Yes, that’s correct. And when I answer their queries, or deal with them, I very rarely issue conduct warnings or conduct strokes, because they know me, and I just say “I don’t want anymore of that”!

And they look at me, and they don’t do it anymore. I don’t need to say “Conduct Warning”.



What the REFS think




What advice would you give to a beginner marker?
The first thing is, make sure you make all the announcements and call the scores and all the calls correctly. That will give the players confidence in your ability.

If there is a marker and a referee, they are a team. If the marker does a good job, it helps the referee. If the marker does a bad job, it reflects on the referee. So if the ball is called “not up” when it is actually “down”, the players will pick that up, and think he doesn’t know what is going on, and they’ll think the same about the referee as he didn’t say a word.

That is probably why it’s so difficult for non-English mother tongue to “get it right” in your eyes, as we do not have those subtleties. In French, for example, we say ‘faute’ for everything!
I heard that, yes. Well, in English, “not up” means it’s bounced twice on the floor or it hasn’t been hit correctly. If you carry the ball or if it bounces twice in your racquet, it’s all “not up”. Now, if it hits the tin, it’s down.

That is the recognised WSF (World Squash Federation) terminology, and that is what should be used, as English is the universal language of squash. Now, what you use internally in French Leagues is up to you, but when you come out on the world scene, you’ve got to use the correct terminology.



A common thing is to start a match by not making the announcement properly, in particular when you go abroad: they forget to call the players’ name, all sorts of mistakes.

In Kuwait, I had one who said “Hand out, love-all, play.” and that was his announcement for a match.

“Hand out, love-all, play”!

And the players looked up at both referees, and I said, “off you go”! And off they went.

Don’t you think it would be a good idea for the WSF to organise more training for referees from different countries?
I’m quite happy to do that. The year before last, I came out especially to the French Club Championship, which were played near Lyon, and I assessed some French referees.

I’ve also been out to Doha when the Arabian Squash Federation had their Arabic National Squash Championship and organised a course, two hours every day for five days, for the referees from Kuwait, Saudi-Arabia , Yemen, etc. And I’m off to the Canadian Nationals shortly to do assessments.

In your opinion, why is World refereeing
dominated by the British?

The director of the body that selects the referees is a Canadian. But when it comes to assessments from referees from all over the world, the referees from England, with the input of the players like I said earlier, get the marks.

Now they get the marks because they have most squash to referee, because there is more squash played in this country than elsewhere, so they have more experience, hence there are more of them.


The World Squash Federation International Referee program - how the refs are made ...





What is your schedule of refereeing?
Not a week goes by without me refereeing somewhere! I do the British Junior Open, the English Open, the British Open, the Nationals, National and Super League, and probably two trips abroad. And if I’m not doing any of those, I’m helping in the North-West counties.

What is a typical day of a Tournament Referee?
The previous night, I would have got the schedule of play for the following day, and I would have already done a schedule of who is going to be in which group of referees. So when I arrive in the morning, the schedule is ready. I do not appoint referees to individual matches until we reach the quarter finals. In other words, there are two courts and there are five referees with a leader. The reason why you do this is, during the early stages, you can get matches that don’t happen. That’s why you appoint a team leader who knows what is happening on the 2 courts, he will be able to adjust the allocation, so they all have an equal turn.

Do you intervene at all in the running of those groups?
I may well state “on this particular match, I want one of you two to do it” or I may well say “somebody needs to be assessed in your team, the assessor will be at that team, can you place them in a match that is worth assessing”. But then I leave them to run those two courts entirely.

So in the morning, you hand out the schedule that you prepared the previous evening, and then what?
Then I discuss any points that have cropped up during that day with the referees before they go out, like one or two of them still not bringing the score sheets in properly, there were some people today trying to set 90 seconds between each game instead of 2 minutes (PSA rules). Not a lot else really! I just remind them of the things I want, that’s all.

I saw you keeping an eye all day on the competition, going from court to court. Do you chat with players who had some problems?
No, not often. They’ll come to me if they have a problem, but I don’t go looking for them. Sometimes, they also talk with other referees, who then report to me, and I see what it’s all about.

And what is your personal schedule
during events like that.

Well, I work in Manchester, so I leave home at 7.20am; I’m in the office for 8am. I stay there until 11am, I come here for 11.15am, I leave here about 9.45pm, I go back to the office, spend about an hour there, I should then go home.


Referees statement for the Nationals 2004, laying out what was expected of the refs ...





Now, the big question: are you paid to referee?
No. The truth is it costs money to referee.

Do you find that normal? I sure don’t!
Hummm, it would be much better if you had at least something in return. They give you a voucher for £4.00 for food, and they pay me £7.00 per day travelling expenses, that’s all I get. In other words, for being the Tournament Referee at the Nationals, for example, I’d get 8 days at £7.00, so £56.00 for a week’s work.

If a referee comes from far away, from London for example, how much does he get, petrol or train plus accommodation?
£35 per day.

You’re joking!
No, I’m not!

And where does he or she sleep? Under the bridges? It’s ridiculous, I’m sorry to say.
I agree with you! It’s amazing that referees are still around.

How can this appalling situation change? Who decides, who has got the means and power to change this?
At the moment, it’s the culture of all events. The WSF has very little to do with this, as most of the events find private sponsorships out there. So, what needs to be done is, the sponsorship money at the moment is divided between the cost of staging the event and prize money.

Nothing is ever allocated for refereeing, and when you start talking about it, they say “where’s that supposed to come from?” My answer is “from the player’s prize money”. “Oh, we can’t do that”. But it needs to be a specific allocation for refereeing, more than purely to cover their costs.

What the REFS think




Refs presented with mementos
at the British Junior Open

Apart from the money side of things that we already talked about, are there things you wish would change?
I think sometimes, we don’t look at ourselves efficiently often. Some referees are good, and should be encouraged, and it seems that at times we lose them because some administration goes wrong, and they get upset, all that sort of thing.

Some people have got to positions, whereas perhaps we should be looking to say whether they should be that high.

OK. I sure don’t know what you mean,
but I’m sure that others will! Anything else?

Yes, the position from which you referee. Now, these courts here [National Centre in Manchester] all had chairs over the back. That is the place where you can referee a match well.

For safety grounds, they have all been taken down. The reason here is that these walls move because they go from singles to doubles courts, therefore the anchorage points for the glass are different from an ordinary court and therefore it has been putting stress on it, and the Health and Safety people have said we can’t have that.

Now I believe that we really must encourage all clubs and all events to arrange for that you are in the right place to referee, and not back in the crowd.

What the REFS think

What is your opinion about
American scoring, or PAR?

I’d prefer it didn’t exist. I prefer conventional scoring. I don’t think it does anything for the game.

The reason why it’s there is to help with its public image rather than anything else, PAR is less confusing. I just believe that 15 may be too high. I think that it should be to 11 or 13, then I can see some benefits to it by shortening the matches [how is that for clairvoyance talents!!].

Some of these matches go on for too long, and it therefore becomes a situation where it is the fittest player who wins, not the better player.

Squash has always been
synonymous with fitness, hasn’t it?

Correct. Also I think reducing the height of the tin has made a huge difference to squash by rewarding the stroke player, therefore creating a more interesting game.

I personally think that PAR is killing squash!
I’m not as strongly as that against it, but I do honestly prefer international scoring as done by the World Squash Federation, which unfortunately means having the tin at 19 inches, and has resulted in some matches of the Men’s World Team Championships lasting five hours!
I strongly believe they must bring that tin down for that event.

What the REFS think


 THE BEST ... and WORST  
Does gender make a difference in the
behaviour of players towards the referees?

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t see a lot of difference, some of the girls can be quite aggressive, but perhaps not in quite such an intimidating way as some of the men.

You were refereeing a match that I have
since nicknamed: the “No Let” match.

Oh, the Mark Chaloner vs Lee Beachill in the first round of the English Open, you mean. Well, he kept on running straight in the back of Lee, not trying to get to the ball. Mark complained in writing to the World Squash Federation.

You didn’t make a fuss about it, did you?
No, I responded to Mark’s letter because I was asked to do so by the Chief Executive of the World Squash Federation, but I’m not into having an argument involving the Press. Actually, I was talking with Gawain Briars out in Kuwait recently, and he said “I saw your response and YOU should have complained about Mark Chaloner’s letter, but you didn’t.”

I know what I was doing in the match, and I know that his letter quoted things that were just totally untrue, like I went and discussed all the decisions immediately with Lee Beachill: I never went near Lee Beachill; or that one of my descriptions was “it doesn’t matter WHERE he plays the ball, you go and get it” which I never said either. He got a lot of things wrong.

Gawain, I think, would have like to see Mark challenged, and he never was. But that’s me.

Are there players you really don’t like to mark.
Not at the moment. There was one, Anthony Hill, he is not on the scene anymore. He was totally uncontrollable. A nice fellow off the court, though. Even the players said they liked him off court, they hated him on court. He just flipped!

What is your worst memory ever!
It was out in 1995, in Cairo, Egypt, World Team Championship, semi final, Australia v Pakistan. The match score is 1/1, and I’m down to referee the last match which is Anthony Hill and Mir Zaman Gul. The previous time they played, it was chaos. In the end it was so bad that Mir Zaman head-butted Anthony Hill and therefore Anthony Hill was awarded the match. Anthony Hill admitted afterwards that he hardly felt the blow! And they hadn’t played since, and they have to play in the decider of the World Teams Championships, and I am the referee. They were fighting in the corridor before they reached the court!

How did it go?
Most people said I did brilliantly to get to the end of the match with both players still on the court! At one point, the pushing and shoving got so bad that I wanted to disqualify both, so you’re thinking to yourself “this is appalling, they should both go off” and then you think “yes, but if I do that, who decides who wins and goes through”, so you’re thinking like that, and an incident occurs, and your mind is not on the match, and you give the wrong decision, which I did. And that made it worse, and I wished the ground would open up and swallow me up. We got to the end of the match with numerous warnings, conduct strokes floating all over the place. Having gone 2 games down, and 7/3 down, Gul won the match.

What is your best memory?
I suppose the World Championship 1998 final for the women in Stuttgart when Sarah Fitzgerald beat Michelle Martin 10/9 in the 5th, a match that I was refereeing. Michelle Martin was 8/3 up and ended up losing it 10/9.

During that match, I was assessed by 2 different people and I got 9 out of 10 by both of them for all of my efforts in there.

Also, there were 2 matches played totally live on TV in the British Open in Birmingham, and I refereed one of them, Lee Beachill against David Palmer. It went very well, and I got 10 out of 10 by the assessor for that one.



15-Aug 2003
Chaloner Claims Refereeing Bias
Mark Chaloner came off court at the Crucible last night a distraught and angry man. The PSA president had been beaten 3-0 by England colleague Lee Beachill, but was furious over what he saw as biased refereeing that cost him the match, and possibly a place in the England team for November's World Champs ... FULL STORY



The world title was always going to come down to this final and what a final it was - the classic drama in women's squash history ... Full Story


British Open Semi
David Palmer bt Lee Beachill
15-11, 12-15, 15-10, 15-10.
It proved to be one match too far for Beachill. Full Story
I was told that you tried to retire last year?

What has age got to do with the price of pork?
How old are you anyway?

I’m 64.

And you call that age?
Yes I do!

But you reconsidered and stayed on, didn’t you?
Yes, players were saying to me “you’re doing OK, why are you giving up?”. You know, players have got a fair say when it comes to international and world referees.

When you do retire, what do you
want people to remember you by?

You know, it used to be "us" and "them", the referees and the players.

I would like people to remember that I did my best to talk to players and understand their requirements, and bring them across to the referees, so we could get together more than we used to.

I always tried to break that "us" and "them" down so we are all in the same pond, trying to understand and entertain the public.