You thought you were doing fine, even positioned to move up the ladder within refereeing, and then you got a call followed by an email. A promotion or a significant appointment, you thought — or, with a wave of panic, could it be a failed Laws of The Game examination? No, the reason for the call, and subsequent email, was that you were getting demoted.
What?! A demotion is defined as a reduction in level. It’s the downgrading of your rank or status, with terms like “reclassification” or “reassignment.” It’s not uncommon in football. A survey has shown nearly half (46%) of Referee Managers said they have demoted officials.
The Reasons For a Demotion
Why would someone get demoted? It could be the result of something they did or didn’t do, or it could be beyond their control. Here are the reasons cited in the survey:
- Poor performance
- A recent promotion that wasn’t working out
- Referee’s request to drop down a level(s)
What to do if You Get Demoted
An involuntary demotion can be a blow to your ego, your career and your bank account. It could be a wake-up call that your officiating skills aren’t up to the standard expected.
Your first inclination may be to turn hang up your whistle or flag and start looking for another involvement in the game you love. But that’s not necessarily your best move. Here are four steps to take after a demotion.
1. Assess What Happened
Firstly, you need to establish why your association is taking this action and to calmly reflect on it. Was it a disciplinary (in)action? A performance-related issue? You might ask questions such as these:
- “Can I have a little more time at this level to improve?”
- “Can you outline the transition plan for heading back down the ladder?”
- “What if I don’t want to accept my reclassification?”
- “How will the demotion be communicated?”
2. Be Open to Feedback
Consider the possibility that your referee manager views you as a valuable official with long term potential and wants you to be successful at a level that better suits your current skills. Ask if there are concerns about your performance or attitude or if there are ways you can improve your refereeing skills. Listen for helpful suggestions, and don’t discount the possibility of an opportunity to achieve promotion opening up in the future.
3. Reach Out to Your Support System
Don’t underestimate the toll a demotion can take on you emotionally. You might feel rejected or unappreciated, and you may need to seek support from friends, family, or even mentors and counsellors outside of your officiating circle.
4. Create an Action Plan
Find a way to frame the demotion as an opportunity to strengthen your skills or performance and develop a strategy in relation to where you want to go with your refereeing career. Focus on identifying specific steps you can take to regain your confidence. Seek opportunities to invest in yourself with professional development training. If you decide to officiate at a lower level, consider how you can do your very best.
The Facts of The Matter
What is the Reason for Demotion?
- Poor Performances – 39%
- Referee Promoted Within The Last 3 Seasons But Struggling at New Level – 38%
- Voluntary Demotion – 14%
(Percentage does not total 100% due to rounding)
More than 1 in 10 referees (14%) have been demoted.
What Did Officials do in Response to Demotion?
- Hang up Their Whistles – 52%
- Tried to Handle The News as Gracefully as Possible – 50%
- Got Upset And Lost Interest in Refereeing – 47%
- Focused on Excelling in Their New Level – 41%
(Percentage does not total 100% due to rounding. Multiple responses allowed.)
At The Third Team I work individually and in collaboration with different professionals where I have developed workshops and 1-2-1 sessions associated with Resilience and Mental Toughness Development to help referees. The workshops and 1-2-1 sessions are interactive, where referees are encouraged to open up and share their experiences to help themselves and each other.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more about my workshops or 1-2-1 sessions and how I could help you or your officials.
Referee Educator & Managing Director of The Third Team
Nathan Sherratt, Referee Educator, Resilience Trainer and Managing Director of The Third Team. A Mental Toughness Practitioner based in County Durham, North East England.