Will be a proud moment if Indian referees can get high-profile : Trevor Kettle on LFL show

Trevor Kettle has joined the All India Football Federation (AIFF) as the Chief Refereeing Officer (CRO) and will oversee all refereeing matters. Having officiated in over 800 professional games at almost every English club ground, Kettle was the referee in the final of the English Football League Cup between Tottenham Hotspur v Blackburn Rovers, the first Community Shield between Liverpool v Arsenal, and many other high-profile games.

In this week's Let's Football Live show, Trevor Kettle was accompanied by John Helm, Erik Paartalu, and Suyash. The discussion had a plethora of topics ranging from Kettle's insane footballing moments, his role as CRO, Let's play initiative, to the AIFF's strategic plan for referees.

Watch the full show here

"It is an extremely busy job because I'm developing the structures, policies, and processes which will really sort of propel refereeing in India forward. The role is to manage the whole spectrum of referees across India, from the very top, those who are operating at the FIFA and the Hero ISL level and the Hero I-League level, down to those new recruits. So it is now my responsibility to develop that strategy so that we can actually develop and improve refereeing in India," Kettle gave a brief about his new role.

Although it's early days, the average number of free kicks from the last three seasons was around about 27 per game. And now we're down to around 17 or 18 per game. Kettle attributes this success to the initiative called Let's play and explained it further

"In May, I started doing a little bit of research, looking at some of the previous games available to me in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). I then came to India in August and I watched most of the Durand Cup there were a couple of themes which really frustrated me in particular. One was the number of unnecessary soft free-kicks which were being given. And that had a real negative impact on the players because they were becoming frustrated that the play was being stopped. It was becoming frustrating for the head coaches and frustration then led to dissent."

In England and in Europe, there's a focus on allowing normal football contacts. "A number of years ago we got to the point where every time there was an element of physical contact, people were interpreting it as a foul. We moved away from that. But I personally felt that that was still pretty prevalent in the Indian game. I am going to do something about this with the initiatives that I've done. So I came up with some key themes and those key themes were brief to the head coaches of the Hero Indian Super League."

Allowing free play may lead to harsh tackles and it would impact the players and teams and Kettle explained ways to tackle it.

"Regarding tackles, which are perhaps too harsh, one thing that I have gone back and told all the referees, what we're trying to do is to raise the thresholds for those challenges, which are normal bodily contact, and normal football contact. Now, this actually happened back in the football league. We tried to raise the threshold for normal contact, but then some referees actually raised the threshold for reckless play and that's not what the intent was".

Trevor made it clear that the intention was not to allow fouls rather curbing the exaggeration of fouls. "There is going to be an element of bodily contact. The key theme that I've put into the referee's mind is that if you are in doubt about something, play on. If we've eradicated those, still we miss a couple but We're still in a far better place," he stated.

Though referees have to make decisions numerous times in a minute, the CRO analyzed it further scientifically, "I would say in every minute, there are at least four or five decisions you have to make, whether that's physical contact or not. Whose throwing was it? Was it a goal kick? these are all simple, free but all simple decisions to be made and then for the 90 minutes, you're going to have some major big decisions. But if we said there were about four decisions to be made every minute, that's almost somewhere between 300-400 decisions in a game."

Kettle requires commentators to appreciate the fact that referees made two or three of those decisions wrong, out of a potential 300 or 400. "There is analysis in other leagues where the accuracy of referees' decision-making is somewhere around about 97% to 98%, which is exceptional, but that includes all of them. Then we start looking at the major decisions,(Penalties, Goals, Serious foul play, violent conduct.) So all of those are then categorized separately," he added.

"We set our mission statement now for referees in India. As I said, the mission is that if we can get some high-profile games in Asia by 2027 and on the world stage by 2030 that will be a very proud moment. It will be a proud moment for me. Be a proud moment for AIFF and Indian referees," concluded Trevor.

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