One of the teaching staples we use with new referees is that “fouls occur in the space between players”. In and of itself, this statement isn’t all that informative, but when one understands the implications for referee positioning, the importance becomes much clearer.
If we accept that fouls happen in the space between players, then it is our job to make sure we can see the space between players. This is sometimes easier said that done. For example, if a defender is chasing an attacker directly from behind, and we find ourselves positioned behind the defender, we have little visibility into the space between players.
So, applying the basic laws of geometry tells us that we meed to move to a different angle; one that provides a better view of the space between players. There are times, as when a defender is pursuing an attacker from behind, that creating a better angle of view is more important than how close we are to said play.
Our shorthand for this geometry principle is “angle before distance”. It’s a quick way to help new referees remember that seeing the space between players can be more important than being close.
FIFA and Select Group Referee Martin Atkinson demonstrates the power of this principle quite clearly in the video below (which desktop users can enlarge by clicking on the button in the lower right hand corner).