William Lai

William Lai is a qualified soccer referee, instructor and assessor, and has also officiated in England and Australia. As an educator, scientist and social scientist, he is also interested in human behaviour which is why his column offers an alternative and rational commentary of what happens on and off the pitch.
William Lai
William Lai is a qualified soccer referee, instructor and assessor, and has also officiated in England and Australia. As an educator, scientist and social scientist, he is also interested in human behaviour which is why his column offers an alternative and rational commentary of what happens on and off the pitch.

Latest from William Lai

The Rational Ref | Why inaugural Hong Kong Premier League seems like more of the same

It was the year when professionalism came to Hong Kong soccer, when more money than ever was invested, and when everything would be better. So how did the inaugural 2014-15 Hong Kong Premier League play out?

20 Jul 2018 - 2:54PM

It was the year when professionalism came to Hong Kong soccer, when more money than ever was invested, and when everything would be better. So how did the inaugural 2014-15 Hong Kong Premier League play out?

Why inaugural Hong Kong Premier League seems like more of the same
The Rational Ref | From Manchester United to Joey Barton, it's all about luck, pain and complaints

Some teams have all the luck, some teams have all the pain, some get all the breaks, while others do nothing but complain. The song lyrics - slightly amended - perfectly captures what happens every weekend on soccer pitches all over the world.

15 May 2015 - 12:46PM

Some teams have all the luck, some teams have all the pain, some get all the breaks, while others do nothing but complain. The song lyrics - slightly amended - perfectly captures what happens every weekend on soccer pitches all over the world.

From Manchester United to Joey Barton, it's all about luck, pain and complaints
The Rational Ref | Referees should have a say in player of the year selection

Eden Hazard and Harry Kane were chosen by their fellow counterparts for the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards, respectively. But just how credible are rating systems for choosing the best in soccer?

20 Jul 2018 - 2:54PM

Eden Hazard and Harry Kane were chosen by their fellow counterparts for the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards, respectively. But just how credible are rating systems for choosing the best in soccer?

Referees should have a say in player of the year selection
The Rational Ref | Oddballs they are, but goalkeepers are not protected by referees

Goalkeepers are the oddballs because they do not have nifty footwork and any mistake will usually influence a match's outcome. As such, there has long been a sneaky suspicion that referees overly protect goalkeepers.

20 Jul 2018 - 2:54PM

Goalkeepers are the oddballs because they do not have nifty footwork and any mistake will usually influence a match's outcome. As such, there has long been a sneaky suspicion that referees overly protect goalkeepers.

Oddballs they are, but goalkeepers are not protected by referees
The Rational Ref | Cheating and hypocrisy: it's ironic that players' attitudes make soccer so interesting

There are many funny, ironic and hypocritical incidents in soccer, which perhaps explain why the game is so engrossing.

23 Apr 2015 - 9:35PM

There are many funny, ironic and hypocritical incidents in soccer, which perhaps explain why the game is so engrossing.

Cheating and hypocrisy: it's ironic that players' attitudes make soccer so interesting
The Rational Ref | Unprecedented Uefa decision to replay U-19 international may prove costly to governing body

Every action has a reaction and Uefa's response to a refereeing blunder could open it up to abuse

17 Apr 2015 - 5:35PM

Every action has a reaction and Uefa's response to a refereeing blunder could open it up to abuse

Unprecedented Uefa decision to replay U-19 international may prove costly to governing body
The Rational Ref | Overreaction to time waste tantrum shows no common sense

No matter how silly and infantile throwing tantrums and clumps of grass may be on the soccer pitch, they can still get you sent off. The latest example comes from the Spanish top-flight league where Celta Vigo striker Fabian Orellana lost his rag at the time-wasting antics of Barcelona's Sergio Busquets.

9 Apr 2015 - 9:50PM

No matter how silly and infantile throwing tantrums and clumps of grass may be on the soccer pitch, they can still get you sent off. The latest example comes from the Spanish top-flight league where Celta Vigo striker Fabian Orellana lost his rag at the time-wasting antics of Barcelona's Sergio Busquets.

Overreaction to time waste tantrum shows no common sense
The Rational Ref | Referees are the poor outcasts in a sea of English Premier League wealth

Despite earning loads of cash via a TV deal, the league has little left for young match officials.

3 Apr 2015 - 1:52PM

Despite earning loads of cash via a TV deal, the league has little left for young match officials.

Referees are the poor outcasts in a sea of English Premier League wealth
The Rational Ref | Coddled footballers need to own actions

The Red Devils centre back denied a charge of spitting at Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse this month and, after the FA found him guilty as charged, immediately maintained his innocence. 

20 Jul 2018 - 2:54PM

The Red Devils centre back denied a charge of spitting at Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse this month and, after the FA found him guilty as charged, immediately maintained his innocence. 

Coddled footballers need to own actions
The Rational Ref | Chelsea's masters of the dark arts highlight a win-at-all-costs mentality

In sport what is more important: playing the game or playing games? Nowhere else but in soccer is this distinction more apparent, with plenty of cheating and gamesmanship instead of genuine sportsmanship and model behaviour.

19 Mar 2015 - 8:45PM

In sport what is more important: playing the game or playing games? Nowhere else but in soccer is this distinction more apparent, with plenty of cheating and gamesmanship instead of genuine sportsmanship and model behaviour.

Chelsea's masters of the dark arts highlight a win-at-all-costs mentality
The Rational Ref | Colourful shirts undermine a match official's authority, or do they?

The term "Men in Black" is more likely to conjure up images of Will Smith blasting aliens into outer space rather than referees carding players off the soccer pitch. That's because the game's leading law enforcers are mostly kitted out in lemon yellow, lipstick red, sherbet blue and even fuchsia pink.

20 Jul 2018 - 2:54PM

The term "Men in Black" is more likely to conjure up images of Will Smith blasting aliens into outer space rather than referees carding players off the soccer pitch. That's because the game's leading law enforcers are mostly kitted out in lemon yellow, lipstick red, sherbet blue and even fuchsia pink.

Colourful shirts undermine a match official's authority, or do they?
The Rational Ref | IFAB dinosaurs reject trial run for video technology to assist soccer referees

Technology in soccer has always been an abhorrent matter, with many "dinosaurs" in the game regarding it as pure evil. Last week, the game's panel of prehistoric "Powers That Be" reinforced its stubborn and narrow-minded reputation by voting against authorising a live trial of video-based assistance for referees.

20 Jul 2018 - 2:54PM

Technology in soccer has always been an abhorrent matter, with many "dinosaurs" in the game regarding it as pure evil. Last week, the game's panel of prehistoric "Powers That Be" reinforced its stubborn and narrow-minded reputation by voting against authorising a live trial of video-based assistance for referees.

IFAB dinosaurs reject trial run for video technology to assist soccer referees
The Rational Ref | Where do we draw the line on persistent fouling?

What's the best way to stop Eden from passing you by? Hazard a guess? Several kicks ought to do it. Hazard is the most fouled player in the English Premier League this season. The Chelsea star was on the receiving end of some "special" treatment in last week's Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain, when he was fouled nine times in a match where the referee issued only two cautions.

26 Feb 2015 - 11:27PM

What's the best way to stop Eden from passing you by? Hazard a guess? Several kicks ought to do it. Hazard is the most fouled player in the English Premier League this season. The Chelsea star was on the receiving end of some "special" treatment in last week's Champions League encounter with Paris Saint-Germain, when he was fouled nine times in a match where the referee issued only two cautions.

Where do we draw the line on persistent fouling?
The Rational Ref | Mixed fortunes for hosts of regional showpieces

This year's Asian Cup and the African Cup of Nations had strong narratives, and plenty of drama and contrasts.

12 Feb 2015 - 10:11PM

This year's Asian Cup and the African Cup of Nations had strong narratives, and plenty of drama and contrasts.

Mixed fortunes for hosts of regional showpieces
The Rational Ref | Sin bins off the mark - red cards are the correct penalties for unfair play

The idea of introducing a rugby-style "sin bin" in football was raised again. Superficially, the sin-bin system appears reasonable. The justification behind it is that instead of referees sending players off the field permanently, it is better to give players another chance using a "white card"

20 Jul 2018 - 2:54PM

The idea of introducing a rugby-style "sin bin" in football was raised again. Superficially, the sin-bin system appears reasonable. The justification behind it is that instead of referees sending players off the field permanently, it is better to give players another chance using a "white card"

Sin bins off the mark - red cards are the correct penalties for unfair play
The Rational Ref | Genuine refereeing howlers are unforgivable, but it's important to know the difference

Not all refereeing mistakes are equal; some are more equal than others. So can soccer lovers distinguish between honest mistakes and the inexcusable?

Many howlers such as incorrect handballs, offsides and penalties occur naturally as a consequence of human error, but unfortunately they obtain huge media exposure when in the English Premier League. If we cut through all the noise, vitriol and bias, many of these decisions are forgivable and only a handful are indefensible.

29 Jan 2015 - 11:24PM

Not all refereeing mistakes are equal; some are more equal than others. So can soccer lovers distinguish between honest mistakes and the inexcusable?

Many howlers such as incorrect handballs, offsides and penalties occur naturally as a consequence of human error, but unfortunately they obtain huge media exposure when in the English Premier League. If we cut through all the noise, vitriol and bias, many of these decisions are forgivable and only a handful are indefensible.

Genuine refereeing howlers are unforgivable, but it's important to know the difference
The Rational Ref | Referees can exercise discretion on free kick ball placement

Give them an inch and players will always take a mile, especially where free kicks are concerned. Strangely, referees can sometimes be lax about where play restarts, but will also demand absolute precision in other areas of the pitch.

23 Jan 2015 - 12:26AM

Give them an inch and players will always take a mile, especially where free kicks are concerned. Strangely, referees can sometimes be lax about where play restarts, but will also demand absolute precision in other areas of the pitch.

Referees can exercise discretion on free kick ball placement
Spare the rod and you will spoil the players
Getting handball calls right is no easy matter
Referees active in practice of handing out cards
Rational Ref: Let's call time on those who run down the clock
Rational Ref: Beyond perfection, referees are the real superheroes
Rational Ref: Why football players need to leave their handbags at home
Whelan should be given red card for racism
Rational Ref: win bonuses pointless as incentives for professionals
Bickering over colour just trivial
Western Wanderers show money isn't everything after conquering Al Hilal
Rational Ref: Culture of cheating means no honesty
EPL has basics down pat, but Hong Kong misses the mark yet again
Too much burden on referees to rule on hidden messages
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