Gear Review: Leather "Fair Play" Referee Wallet

Courtesy of the referees who operate Referee Store.com, we have the FIFA Leather “Fair Play” Referee Wallet for review.  The FIFA Leather “Fair Play” Referee Wallet consists of three parts: a yellow card, red card, and the wallet itself and retails for $10.95.

The wallet is constructed of leather and is nicely finished with stitching along the edges.  The wallet contains two pockets – one in front and one in back, to hold each of the cards.  The wallet opens to reveal a standard referee wallet layout, with clear plastic strips on either side to hold a game card in place.  A standard OSI pre-printed game card sheet (5-13/16″ x 4″, 148mm x 101mm) works just fine.  The inside surface of the wallet is lined with a nylon like material, which should help repel moisture.  Overall, the wallet is well-built and should last much longer than a typical plastic wallet.

The yellow and red cards are nice and thick, with rounded corners. They are a bit on the small side, measuring 75mm x 106mm.  By contrast, b+d cards measure 90mm x 121mm.  The FIFA cards are thicker than the b+d cards, but not as thick as my “vintage” cards from the 1970s (which are no longer made).  The red card is a fluorescent red, which seems to be the standard now, and are almost identical in color to the b+d cards.

In summary, the FIFA Leather “Fair Play” Referee Wallet is a very good set any referee would be happy to own.  The superior construction and thicker cards should ensure this set will last much longer than the standard plastic wallets and cards.  I continue to prefer the b+d compact referee wallet, but only because I use a write on game information card (from writeoncards.com, reviewed here) and it fits very nicely in the b+d wallet.  If you prefer the pre-preprinted paper sheets (or if you print your own), this wallet is highly recommended.

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Gear Review: Score Pro Referee Jersey

Before I jump right into the review, I have to take moment and acknowledge a milestone: for the first time, iTOOTR has been provided gear for review without having to pay for it!  This is significant for two reasons.  First, it means I can stay married, and second, we can review more gear for the referee community.  The good folks at refereestore.com were kind enough to provide a Score Pro Elite referee jersey for review (along with other items we’ll be reviewing shortly).  Soccersuperstoreusa.com is run by a pair of USSF National Referees and by all indications, they have very referee-friendly policies and pricing.  Now, on with the review.

When reviewing jerseys, the key items we look for are quality of construction, color matching, and any features that are unique to the specific shirt we’re examining.  The Score Pro referee jersey does well on two of these three key areas and receives a Referee Recommended rating from iTOOTR.

The Score Pro referee jersey, $27, http://www.refereestore.com (and others), is a well-constructed, well finished shirt.

The placket area features reinforcing interfacing on the back, which helps the shirt hold its’ shape and stand up to repeated washings.

The interfacing is also found on the OSI Pro jersey, but not on the Kwik Goal Premier jersey.  The placket area is the same color as the rest of the jersey (the OSI Pro jersey features a contrasting black placket).

The shirt pockets are clipped at the corners, which prevents the corners from curling.  Personally, I don’t care for the clipped corners, but I have had problems with the corners on my other jerseys not laying flat, so I understand the need.  The pockets do not feature a pen channel, but the shirt does include a velcro sticker for the back of your referee badge.

One of the best features of the Score jersey is the cut, which is athletic when compared to the OSI and KG jerseys.  Because of my height (6’2″ or 1.88m), I wear XL sized jerseys.  XL jerseys are typically large through the waist and chest and I have a lot of excess material hanging off of me.  The Score XL jersey is a good 1.5 to 2 inches smaller through the waist, and the sleeves are a bit shorter as well.  I was pleased with this cut and felt like it fit me better than either the OSI or KG jerseys.

The finish of the polyester fabric is highly light reflective, which is similar to the KG jersey.  The OSI Pro jerseys are slightly less “shiny” under sunlight.

The most significant drawback of the Score Pro jersey is the color.  The sample I was provided to review was red, and there is noticeable difference in hue between the Score and OSI jerseys.  While the OSI Pro jersey is a deep, fire-engine red, the Score Pro jersey is more muted.  Unfortunately, all attempts to capture the color difference on camera were unsuccessful, owing in part to my limited photography skills and in part to the limitations of my new, but basic, point-and-shoot camera.  My guess is that most non-referees wouldn’t notice the difference, save for maybe the walk-out when all three referees are standing next to each other.

Like the OSI and Kwik Goal shirts, the Score Pro Elite jersey is made of 100% polyester and is cared for by washing in cold water with similar colored items, and then tumbled dry on low.

In summary, the Score Pro referee jersey is recommended for all but the most serious of referees.  If you are still building your referee career, sticking with the OSI Pro jersey is the safe choice, as you’re guaranteed to look good in any crew of other upper level referees.  On the other hand, “seasoned veterans”, new referees, or those referees  still holding on to the old single-stripe jerseys would do well to consider the Score Pro shirts.  At a savings of $20 per shirt, a referee could save $100 on a complete set of all five colors when compared to the OSI jerseys.  I see no reason for any referee to consider the OSI Economy line of jerseys when both the Score and KG shirts offer so many more features for roughly the same price.

Related: Summary Ratings of Referee Jerseys

Gear Review: Referee Jerseys Ratings Summary

We’ve reviewed referee jersey offerings from OSI, Score, and Kwik Goal, and have summarized the results in the following table.  More manufacturers will be added as reviews are completed.

OSI Pro Score Pro Elite Kwik Goal Premier OSI Economy
Ranking 1 2 3 4
Referee Recommended Yes Yes Yes No
Price (s/s, Red, XL)1 $47 $28 $21 $25
Color Match2 Gold TBT3 Yes Yes
Red No TBT Yes
Black TBT Yes Yes
Blue TBT TBT Yes
Green TBT No Yes
Pocket Flaps Yes Yes Yes No
USSF Referee Program Logo Yes No No Yes
Manufacturer Logo Type Screen Screen Embroidered Screen
Logo Location Right Pocket Flap Right Pocket Flap Right Sleeve Right Pocket
Placket Color Black Same as shirt Same as shirt Black
Placket Interfacing Yes Yes No No
Number of Buttons 2 2 2 None; V-Neck
Cut/Fit Full Athletic Full Full
Tag/Tagless Tag Tagless Tagless Tag
Pen Channel No No Yes No
Badge Velcro Included No Yes Yes No
Material 100% Polyester 100% Polyester 100% Polyester 100% Polyester
Construction Quality Best Good Good Good
Care Cool wash with like colors, tumble dry low Cold wash with like colors, tumble dry low Cold wash, gentle cycle, tumble dry low Cool wash with like colors, tumble dry low
Made In Honduras Mexico, of USA materials Taiwan Honduras
Manufacturer is USSF Technical Partner Yes No Yes Yes
Link to Full Review  Full Review  Full Review  Full Review  None
Online Availability officialsports.com refereestore.com, others amazon.com, others officialsports.com

Color Match assumes OSI Pro jersey colors are the reference standard.  Prices checked online on 22 December 2012 at the websites listed under “Online Availability”. Shipping costs are not included.

Notes:

  1. Prices checked online on 22 December 2012 at the websites listed under ‘Online Availability’. Shipping is not included.
  2. Color Match assumes OSI Pro jersey colors are the reference standard
  3. TBT = To Be Tested

Gear Review: Eagle Creek Hybrid Hauler

Unfortunately, this item has been discontinued by the manufacturer.

Before you say “Are you nuts, this bag is well over $100!”, just read on.

For me, the Eagle Creek Hybrid Hauler, Medium, is a dual purpose bag: it’s my ref bag,but it also serves as luggage for a long weekend trip.

So, yes, it is expensive (I paid $100, but the price is more consistently around $150 on Amazon), but I get more than one use out of it.

I bought this bag primarily because of the multiple ways you can carry it. It has a detachable shoulder strap, multiple grab handles, and even coverts to a backpack. This is especially nice when you have a long hike from your car to the field.

But the other features of this bag made me a real fan.

The bottom of the bag is coated with a thick, weather resistant lining that protects it from just about any condition, and cleans up easily.

The bottom layer opens so that you can stash your nasty wet things inside without soiling your clean uniforms.

A small zippered compartment on top hold your keys and other items you need quick access to.

The main compartment is roomy and easily accessible, thanks to the design of the top, which unzips nearly completely.

Finished off the nice touches likes the oversized zipper pulls, and you’ve got yourself one killer ref bag.

One criticism: the shoe bin is small on the medium bag; my size 12’s don’t begin to fit inside.

Eagle Creek backs the bag with a comprehensive “no questions asked” warranty. If you want more details, you can visit the Eagle Creek website here.

The Eagle Creek video below demonstrates many of the bag’s features.

 

I use the Eagle Creek Pack-It system to organize the contents of my ref bag, as you can see in the photos below.

 

Gear Review: The Write Pen For The Right Job

If you use write-on cards like me, you may have struggled to find just the right pen to use.

I don’t like the standard Sharpie because you have to manually remove the cap and either put it in your mouth, or your other hand. I ended up either looking ridiculous or having both hands full.

So I was happy when I discovered the retractable Sharpie markers. But alas, I solved one problem and created another. It turns out the “clicker” on the Sharpie retractable pen is so long you can’t close the flap on your jersey pocket (images 1 and 2). Of course, you could simply put the pen in your shorts pocket, but that didn’t suit me.

The search continued until I found the Bic Mark-It retractable permanent marker (image 3). The construction of the cap on the Bic allows the pocket flap to close completely (image 4).

These markers are hard to find in stores. I’ve looked in my local Wal-Mart, Staples, and Office Max without luck. Fortunately, they are available online through Amazon.com (and others, I’m sure).

Another important refereeing problem solved.

Gear Review: The Strassburg Sock

If you’ve ever dealt with the pain of plantar fasciitis, you know how debilitating it can be. And recovery takes time. Among the worst aspects of recovery is how painful the first few steps of the morning can be. Fortunately, I’ve found a product that helps with this considerably.

When you’re sleeping, the plantar fascia is relaxed, and, in fact, begins the healing process. Until you get up the next morning, that is, and start unwittingly stretching it as you take the first steps out of bed. This re-injures the ligament and starts the whole process all over again.

That’s where the Strassburg Sock comes in. This funny looking device keeps slight pressure on the plantar fascia while you’re asleep, so that when you awake, you aren’t just tearing the ligament all over again. Simple idea, right?

I have found that it actually works. After even the first night, you notice that the morning pain is lessened considerably. After a couple of nights, the ligament actually starts improving.

The sock isn’t cheap at $40, but it’s a small price to pay for relief from plantar fasciitis.  A couple of ordering notes: you get one (1) sock for $40, and you need to measure around the fat of your calf to determine which of the two sizes (regular or large) to order.

Gear Review: Custom Cards write on cards

Durable, superior laminate finish that can be written on with pencil, can be customized with your name, very reasonably priced. Highest rating.

Our journey through game information recording systems continues today with a look at write-on cards from Custom Cards. Custom Cards is an Internet-based company run by referee Larry Cooper in Collinsville, IL. Larry produces a variety of write on cards, available in multiple sizes. The “custom” moniker is used because they can print custom text (e.g., your name) on your cards before they are laminated.

Before we dive into the individual cards, what makes all of these cards unique is the laminate material used on the cards. The material, which is relatively thick, has a unique matte finish that you can write on with virtually any writing instrument. Of course, permanent markers work well, but the real joy in using these cards is that pencil actually works quite well. The instructions included with the cards point out that using pencil will extend the life of the cards, when the user employs a quality gum eraser to clean it after each match.

I really like the matte finish on these cards, for a couple of different reasons. First, I prefer to use pencil when possible. I like the smaller form factor of pencils, and I never have to worry about getting marker on my hands or uniform. Second, the matte finish is much easier to see in bright sunlight. Cards with a glossy finish reflect light and can sometimes be hard to read when used in direct sunlight.

Now, let’s take a look at each product. First up are the Yellow and Red Card Set. These are available in three sizes, the Standard (3 1/2” by 5 1/8”, $5), the Pro Elite (3 5/8” by 5 3/4”, $6) and Petite (3 1/4” by 4 3/4”, $5). Apart from size, these card sets are identical to one another.

The laminate corners are nicely rounded so that they won’t poke you while they are in your pocket. The back of each card is blank and has a glossy laminate finish. The colors are appropriate versions of yellow and red, not some flourescent version that doesn’t look quite right.

Each card has space to record 6 misconduct events per team, and eight goals per team with time, or 16 goals per team without the time. The space at the top of each card is reserved for any custom printing requested during the ordering process. The cards are thick enough that you can write on them comfortably, without feeling like a piece of cardboard.

My personal favorite is the Game Record Card ($3). I prefer to use my old yellow and red cards from the 70s – I still haven’t found a set of cards that are as thick and comfortable as these. So, I use a separate card to record information, and the Game Record Card is perfect for this task. I really like the portrait orientation (I’ve seen some other write on cards that are landscape and this bugs me), and, again, the fact that I can write on it with pencil.

Another cool feature of this card is that it is two-sided; great for back-to-back games!

Like the Yellow and Red Card Sets, the Game Record Card features spaces for 8 goals plus time, or 16 goals without time, per team. It has places to record 10 instances of misconduct, and all of the basic match data, such as date, time, referee crew, etc. This is very handy because I use my smartphone to snap a photo of it after the match is over (more on that in a future blog).

Custom Cards also offers a few other specialty cards, including a card for recording kicks from the mark (the Kicks From The Penalty Mark card, $2.50), an NCAA substitution tracking card (NCAA Substitution Card, $2.50) that could also be used for other competitions such as Super Y where subs must be tracked, a luggage/bag tag (Personalized Bag Tag, $2.50), and even a Rugby Yellow/Red Set ($5.50).

All of these cards are incredibly utilitarian, durable, and to top things off, very reasonably priced. Combine this with great customer service and you’ve got an unbeatable combination. Custom Cards wins my highest recommendation: a 5 whistle rating.

To order, click here.