The story of the referee’s whistle (2)

BY: Godsway Glah

With or without pea, high pitch or low tone, the world of the referee will never be far from controversy, whether before he blows the whistle or after he has blown the whistle.

Joseph Hudson, assisted by his son, continued to revolutionise the world of whistles and in 1878 the first football match to be officiated with a whistle took place in a game between Nottingham Forest and Sheffield in the English FA Cup. But it was not until 1891 when umpires were ‘relegated’ to the touchline as linesmen and the referee was introduced into the middle of the playing field that the use of the whistle assumed prominence. By this time, the referee was regularly required to stop play for infringements. The whistle was proving to be a very useful tool for refereeing.

By 1914, Hudson had created over 200 different types of whistles. Some whistles improved in quality so much that military specialists used them as decoys for signalling purposes in military operations. By this time too a new material started to develop as a moulding material, the first early plastic whistles were made. Around 1920, an improved ‘Acme Thunder’ was introduced. It was designed to be smaller, shriller and with a tapered mouthpiece.

The new whistle proved more comfortable for referees, especially as it produced a high pitch. This was styled ‘Whistle Model No. 60.5. It was designed for use in big crowds. Records have it that it was the type that was used in the first Wembley Cup Final on 28th April, 1923 between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. The crowd that day was 26,047 and that Model No. 60.5 is still in use today. In 1930, Hudson, the father of the referees’ whistle died at age 83. It was, however, in the same year the ‘Pro-Soccer’ whistle was first used. It had a special mouthpiece and a barrel for even greater power and a higher pitch sound for use in a noisy stadium.

In 1988, the ‘Tornado 2000’ whistle first made by Joseph Hudson was used at FIFA World Cup matches, UEFA Champion League matches and at the British FA Cup Final. It is a powerful whistle. With its higher pitch, it gives greater penetration and creates a crescendo of sound that cuts through even the greatest crowd noise. The ACME Tornado was introduced in 1989 and patented. The Tornado offers a range of six pealess sports whistles with high, medium and low frequencies for every sport. Probably the Tornado 2000 was the ultimate in power whistles.

There are many whistle manufacturers as there are many whistles. The ACME continues to produce high-quality whistles. The Tornado 622 has a square mouthpiece and is a bigger whistle. Medium high pitch with deeper discord for softer sound, very loud but less harsh. The Thunder 560 is a smaller whistle, with a high pitch. There is also the Tornado 635 which is extremely powerful in pitch and loudness. Its unique unconventional design enables it to produce three different and distinctive sounds.

This is ideal for those who want a sound that really ‘stands out from the crowd’. In locations or areas where several games are played in close proximity, it is very useful.

Referees and whistles are friends. They spend many happy hours in matches. Referees, after their active days should be able to look back with happy memories to hear the sweet shrilling blast that help them to stamp their authority during matches.

The guidelines accompanying the FIFA Laws of the Game direct referees to whistle for all kick-offs, penalty kicks and some free kicks. In many other instances such as balls going over the touchline and goal line, referees are not obliged to blow their whistles. That is in obvious throw-ins, goal-kicks and even corner-kicks. Hudson’s whistle has come to re-enforce referees’ authority and power. They should, however, be exercised judiciously and in conformity with the Laws of the Game.