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Exclusive: Flights, police escorts and being abandoned in the car park – Keith Hackett details the life of a referee on international duty

There might be a feeling that international football is just a waste of a weekend when club football could still be going on, but there are still a lot of players who will see playing for their country as the pinnacle of their career.

It’s a similar honour for referees when they are selected by FIFA or UEFA to oversee a fixture, but there’s more that goes into the entire process than you might think.

The authorities do try to keep certain countries apart to stop all hell breaking loose, but there are still plenty of countries with history or angry fans that will make it an edgy affair.

Former Premier League referee Keith Hackett has detailed what goes into being a referee on international duty, and it certainly doesn’t sound like a nice mini-break abroad with a game of football thrown in.

READ MORE: Exclusive: “Get back to old fashioned refereeing” – Keith Hackett explains how to deal with petulance following Martial’s red card vs Spurs

The choices are made by FIFA or UEFA so a ref will simply get a date and a place with some flight details, while they are also required to be in the city at least 24 hours before kick off.

The officiating team travel together and it often involves a few connecting flights, while they are eventually met on arrival by a member of the home FA and taken to their hotel.

At least they do get a little bit of time for sightseeing and enjoying the destination, while it’s probably a good idea to get this out of the way before the match if everything goes wrong and public recognise you.

There is an astonishing amount of preparation and box ticking on the morning of the game, with the officials taken to the ground at 10am to check everything from kit colours, the playing surface and a full plan with the police, fire brigade and various other officials.

This is the kind of fixture you would want to avoid

Everything is very closely managed and the referees get taken to the ground with a police escort before the game, so that’s always going to draw attention and make everyone aware who’s on the way to the ground.

After the game is a fairly simple review of your performance from the observer and then dinner and some sleep before going home the next day, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.

Hackett detailed one memorable occasion in Greece where their driver simply disappeared and left them in the car park to try and find their own way back to the hotel, although it sounds like they did manage to escape unscathed.

It’s fascinating to see how much goes on behind the scenes with the match officials, while you can also understand why a comfortable home victory with no controversy would be welcomed by most refs after the match.

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