It’s a well-worn phrase that referees are nobody’s friend and that officiating a game between 22 players is a thankless job. Any of us who have hadthe honour and privilege of wearing that black uniform will attest to this.
It’s even more thankless – sometimes even downright dangerous – when you have to suffer the wrath of spectators at the end of the game because they didn’t like this or that decision.
When such unwanted attention is as a result of officials from either or both clubs being the perpetrators of such scrutiny, it becomes a problem.
I remember quite clearly running for my life following certain decisions I had given that did not meet the approval of the watching fans or club officials.
Were it not for the excellent referee security, some of my colleagues and I could have been injured or killed.
I remember one particular coach who would first remonstrate with me and then turn to the spectators with his arms outstretched as if to say: “See what this ref is doing to us?” and “It’s not my fault that we lost, it’s the referee.” Or: “We work hard all week and then we get robbed by this referee.”
Let me make something clear and unambiguous – referees are only human, and humans make mistakes.
They and their assistants do not have eyes on the sides or backs of their heads. They make a call based on what they see and have to make a split-second decision. Sometimes it’s wrong.
A recent study by Fifa declared that match officials get as much as 95% of their decisions correct.
The sight of coaches and other club officials jumping up and down on the touchline in anger is not only disgusting, it’s downright dangerous. It incenses the crowd and puts immediate pressure on the unfortunate men in black. I say men because it doesn’t seem to happen to officials who are women.
I wonder how many coaches actually know the laws of the game. I wonder how many know how many laws there are. I’ll bet you could count them on one hand, yet they are prepared to satisfy their fanbase by putting all the blame on the referee.
I repeat, referees will get decisions wrong – that’s why we now have the video assistant referee (VAR) system. There’s no point in crying over a decision if you’re not prepared to put your money where your mouth is and bring in this technology.
In fact, even with the VAR, refs in the Premier League are still getting it wrong.
So what’s the solution?
I believe that we need to restore confidence and respect in refereeing.
Perhaps we should go back to basics and do away with VAR and goal-line technology. Forget about headsets and pitch-side cameras.
I watch rugby games and see what respect there is from huge 150kg guys, who, when sin-binned or red-carded, leave the field without even a comment.
I then watch soccer hooligans masquerading as players shouting obscenities and spewing vitriol at referees, and getting away with it in the name of “man management”.
Referees today are too soft, and need to take strong action against players and coaches who misbehave. Our refs today just don’t seem to have the backbone to take appropriate action against erring clubs, players and officials.
At the same time, our match officials need to be trained, coached and mentored to certain levels of excellence, and if they are not prepared to put in the work and effort, they should be downgraded to lower levels until they do.
Like everything, it’s a two-sided coin and both must adhere to certain standards or get out.
Please feel free to make comments or ask questions.
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