It’s something of a truism that with no referee, there would be no football. In this, our next in the series on football’s material culture, we take a look at the little slip of card in the referee’s breast pocket.
Without, the referee would be totally lost and so too would information vital to local pressmen the world over covering matches for local newspapers where there are no fancy teamsheets to be had, no tannoys to announce the team, and only your watch to guess when the goal was scored. If you are lucky to have access to it, the referee’s match card forms the building blocks of any report likely to appear in the local newspaper. A good referee’s match card, fully utilised, will have a list of not only the players on the pitch, but the players off it too – will list substitutions, goals, yellow and red cards and might even (if you’re lucky) contain (if you’re luckier again!) a legible mini-report if there has been a major incident during the game.
The match card is surely amongst the most ephemeral pieces of material culture produced by football. It’s role is purely functional. So far as I can make out, there’s no trade in the collecting and swapping of the referee’s match card. Largely this being because a referee’s match card, quite obviously, has to make its way back usually to the secretary of the league for filing and logging. Some referee match cards can be quite fancy but most I’ve encountered are just a small square of folded white card with lines for club name, players name, the address the card is to be returned and a little bit of space for special notes, should it be required.
It may well be that there’d be no football without the referee, but what would a referee be without his match card?