Touching The Referee: When Is It OK?

A friendly guide to when you should and should not touch a referee.

Touching is good. It’s a display of endearment, a bonding behavior, an affectionate act.

Touching is bad. It’s a display of aggression, a divisive behavior, a violent act. 

Contrary to popular belief, referees are people too. They like good touch. They don’t like bad touch. On Sunday, Cristiano Ronaldo did a bad touch. The referee didn’t like it. Ronaldo is suspended five matches. 

When is it OK to touch the referee? We here at The18 have put together a guide so you know just how you should and should not touch the referee.

Good Touch: Shaking Hands Before/After A Match

Not only is this touching allowed, its actively encouraged. Give the referee a friendly greeting at the start of the match and a sportsmanlike “gg” after the match. Fist bumps are welcome too, and more sanitary. 

Bad Touch: Violently Shaking The Ref’s Hand

Whoa there buddy. Only the Donald gets to yank people around with violent handshakes


Good Touch: Showing A Little Intimacy

Even in the heat of battle, a hug can really lift one’s spirits, especially when from an unexpected source. A gentle kiss on the forehead? Even better! Be careful though, butt taps are OK only in certain scenarios. Just make sure you’re the same gender as the recipient. 

Bad Touch: Not Keeping It PG

Remember what we said about butt taps? Same goes double for chest taps. Watch those hands, gentlemen. 

Good Touch: Back Pat After Signing An Autograph

Refs are fans too! When you receive a booking, offer an autograph and a friendly pat on the back. If you’re lucky, the official will be eager to pull out another card for you to sign later.

Bad Touch: Head Butts

Do not show your affection for an official with a head butt. It might be cute when a baby goat does it to a cat, but you won’t win any fans by ramming your head into a referee. 


Good Touch: Being Lionel Messi

Turns out, when you’re Lionel Messi, you can get away with a little bad touch. Unfortunately, you’re not Lionel Messi. 

Bad Touch: Being Raheem Sterling

You might be Raheem Sterling. Don’t touch the ref, Raheem. 

Good Touch: Flirting

Look, it can be hard to meet people, and a little flirting on the pitch never hurt anyone. Take Franck Ribery, for instance. Here he cheekily unties the referee’s shoelaces during a DFB Pokal match. She may be a bit older than Ribery’s usual flames, but I’m sure the Frenchman got her digits afterword when he scored on the ensuing free kick. 

Bad Touch: Attacking A Ref

Um, no. Just, no. It probably goes without saying, but attacking a referee is not good touching. Violence is never the answer people! And some refs, you just don’t want to piss off. They might touch back.

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