Tammy Ogston and Mark Shield, Football

Tammy Ogston refereeing at FIFA Women's World Cup 2007
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Author:  Sharon Phillips
Issue: Volume 7 Number 1

Refs hit the right pitch

When Australian football referees Tammy Ogston and Mark Shield were named best referees in the Asian region late last year, it marked a turning point in Australian football.

Australia only joined the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) two years ago, and Ogston and Shield picked up their awards over more than 55 male and 57 female AFC peers.

For Shield, the Award was a career highlight, “outside being appointed to a world cup and a really good thing in terms of cementing the reputation that Australian referees are building”. For Ogston, being named in the same category as Shield was surreal.  “I nearly had a heart attack.  Mark is just a wonderful referee and has done so much for men’s football. “

Yet Ogston’s record is no less impressive than Shield’s.  She has refereed in three women’s World Cups.  The most recent as referee for both the opening match and the final of the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

It’s a long way from her first refereeing gig — a Division 6 men’s game in Brisbane in 1993. Yet, her progress towards top-class refereeing appointments wasn’t without hiccups.  Ogston recalls a “friendly” match between Australia and Italy in Sydney in 1996 that nearly caused her to give refereeing away.  “I don’t know what was going on but it just seemed like the way the Italians were tackling, they were out to kill Australia.  I was cool and calm until half time when I went to the rooms.  I broke down and took off my boots and shirts and told the national coach of referees that if I had to go out there again, someone would be killed and I might not get off the park alive.  It took him 15 minutes to convince me to get back out there.”

This, and many other experiences racked up on the pitch is what is tempting Ogston towards a move into referee instructing. “I’ve had a good run and I want to give something back to the sport ... to help prepare up-and-coming referees.”

She has seen a lot of changes in her decade at the top of the sport, citing an increase in professionalism and opportunities for referees among them.  “When I first started you might be lucky to do one international a year.  Now there are so many international games, world cup qualifiers, friendlies ... last year I had 31 weeks reffing.  ” She adds that the AFC invests a lot of time in women’s refereeing. “[Australia] going into Asia has definitely lifted the game.”

Mark Shield agrees.  “Since Australia joined the AFC, it’s opened up a lot more opportunities for appointments through the region.”

He too has seen many changes since his first international friendly match between New Zealand and Norway in Brisbane in 1997.  “The way we’re being trained now at international level has definitely changed.  The fitness requirements to qualify mean that you can’t be 50-years-old and go out for a jog every now and then.” In the three-month lead up to his second World Cup refereeing appointment in 2006, Shield wore a heart rate monitor so fitness trainers in Belgium could record his heartbeat. 

The 34-year-old has just returned from the FIFA Referees Seminar in Spain as part of the first stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup official selection process where top referees are tested for physical fitness and educational knowledge.
His aim is to qualify and then to referee a high profile match but because of the politics of the sport and wealth of older, elite league experienced referees, he will need “a pretty good helping of luck”.

Shield returned from the seminar in Spain in time to referee the Grand Final of the Hyundai A-League.  The match was marred by an incident in which Central Coast goalkeeper Danny Vukovic was charged with violent conduct for striking Shield after Shield dismissed appeals for a penalty following an apparent handball by a Newcastle player.

Shield says he was personally “gutted” after the match.  “I missed it. Obviously if I’d seen it I would have given it.  I believe very few people actually saw it the first time around.  We have a split second to make decisions. We don’t have the advantage of seeing it 16,000 times in slow motion replays over and over. I thought I’d refereed a good match up until the 93rd minute of the Grand Final.  It does toughen you up a bit, which in the long run is a good thing.”   

He says when he bad days, he often likes to watch a tape of a France v Japan match in St Ettienne, France in 2003. “The moons must have lined up and I just had the best game ever.   It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a pitch.  It’s what keeps you going.“

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