Hanging Judge: Do football coaches and managers know the laws of the game?

Dr Errol Sweeney
Dr Errol Sweeney

I recently wrote about the match officials and their preparations for the new season.

I explained in detail the various aspects of their annual seminar and the many topics that are covered as they get ready for another tough and gruelling but satisfying season.

This got me thinking – how much do the coaches and managers know about the Fifa laws of the game and their interpretations?

Do they even know how many laws govern the game in line with the International Football Association Board?

From watching them ranting and raving on the touchline during games, it would appear they either know very little or have selective amnesia. There are several examples of referees and their assistants being verbally abused for decisions made during a game.

Some coaches and managers have even resorted to physical violence against unfortunate and unsuspecting referees.

This cannot be tolerated under any circumstances and should be condemned by all. The coaches are supposed to know the laws so that they can then go about their coaching duties in a responsible and calculated way.

It’s well known that players are probably less familiar with the ins and outs of the game and depend on their superiors to enlighten them. They can show players how to dribble, kick the ball around and even encourage fancy footwork – including overhead bicycle kicks.

I remember doing a Football Association coaching badge course some years ago and the instructor explained that there would be four modules involved that we would be tested on.

One of them was the Fifa laws of the game.

He then made an extraordinary statement. He said that most participants (coaches) fail on the laws of the game.

Now, I’m not sure if that’s just pure ignorance on the part of the coaches, a lack of understanding or both. Why the abuse?

Players and spectators often engage in abusive behaviour in part because of what’s known as “in-game triggers”.

These can be frustrations towards a match official’s decision they believe to be unfair or as a way of externalising their problems with the game.

Many people also use interpersonal conflict with the referee in an attempt to influence future refereeing decisions.

Such abuse is frequently demonstrated by players and managers at the highest level of football, who often face few consequences for their actions.

As a result, these actions are seen to be acceptable conduct by TV viewers and spectators, and it normalises the behaviour as being an integral part of football.

What’s even more disturbing is that children, teenagers and sometimes even adults frequently try to imitate the mannerisms of their favourite footballers – be it copying their hairstyles or their skills when playing the game.

This behaviour has been described by social psychologists as “vicarious reinforcement”. This is the act of imitating another person in an attempt to reap the same rewards as them.

Such hooliganism has no place in football, yet it’s happening in almost every game we see. I even heard some die-hard supporters of teams threatening to stop going to or watching games on TV because of the silly and unnecessary behaviour of certain players.

I firmly believe that we referees have the key. We must act sternly and stamp out this blatant cheating, diving and deliberate attempts to hoodwink us.

We have the power – it’s time we used it for the good of the game. Otherwise, the most watched and supported game in the world will suffer with falling attendances at stadiums and on TV.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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