Referee in Focus – Alan Milliner

Alan Milliner has been a Hyundai A-League referee since 2009 and a FIFA listed referee since 2014. In addition to the Hyundai A-League, Alan recently refereed his first FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Timor-Leste and Saudi Arabia

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

How did you become involved in refereeing?

I was introduced to refereeing as a 13 year old at my junior club the Gap Pastime Club and would referee Roo-Ball matches but it wasn’t until I went to Kelvin Grove State College Soccer School of Excellence that we sat the entrance exam as part of the program.

Can you describe a week in the life of an A-League referee?

A normal week is extremely crazy. With working a full time job as a Sales Rep from 7am to 5pm and training everyday whether that be a high intensity session, speed and agility, strength sessions or practical skills on top of that as well. On a Monday night after each round we have a teleconference to debrief and review our match and discuss particular incidents from our match. We also spend a great deal of time preparing and reviewing stats and videos of the two teams for our next match once the appointments are released on a Monday afternoon to formulate our own tactics for the next weekend. We also review our own performance from the week before and also study other referee’s from around the world to improve or skills.

The recent appointment of full time referee’s is a great step forward and will allow them the opportunity to prepare properly rather than in the late hours of the night.

What do you do to keep a balance between your personal, professional and refereeing life?

This is extremely challenging, but to able to get the right balance I have a very supportive employer, friends and most of all family. International appointments make this a further challenge with the length of time required away. However it is very important to take some time away from football to recharge the batteries. When doing so you will find me spending time with my young kids.

How do you keep focused during a match and not let emotions influence decisions?

In our training we spend a lot of time preparing not only physically but mentally as well. During a match I use a lot of cue words that I have prepared with the help of a sports psychologist. Also remembering why I referee is vitally important and allows me to stay relaxed and calm.

In your opinion, what has been the biggest change in football in recent years?

I would have to say the speed of the game. Players have become a lot fitter and faster but the speed at which the ball travels as well. When a player is sprinting at 6 to 7 meters per second and the ball travelling almost twice that speed referee’s need to be able to keep up. But also the counter attack style of play has also contributed to the speed of the game as well.

What is the key to building positive relationships with players and coaches?

Communication and honesty are what I believe to be the key foundations. If you have made a mistake put your hand up and admit it. I have found that players and managers respect you more if you are willing to admit to your errors.  

What do you consider to be the most important characteristic of an elite referee?

For me I believe having a positive attitude is to be the most important characteristic. However there are technical parts of our game that are just as important like fitness, an understanding application of the laws of the game, positioning and the understanding of the modern game which are just as important.

What match or moment stands out as a highlight in your refereeing career?

My highlight to date is my International debut match between Japan and New Zealand.  Whistling in front of 70,000 Japanese was such an adrenalin rush and will be something I treasure for the rest of my life.