No one ever said that a ref’s life was an easy one. From being barracked on the field to being chased off it by irate players and sometimes supporters, to players pretending to be injured and others deliberately cheating to gain an advantage for their team – these are just some of the problems we have to deal with game in and game out.
Why do we do it? I don’t have the answer. It’s just that it’s like a drug and we need our “game” fix at least once a week.
Two incidents that bear closer inspection happened recently with two different referees on two different continents.
The first was in England in a game between Leeds United and Aston Villa. I have never seen anything like it. There was a foul on an Aston Villa player in the middle of the field. The player was on the ground “injured”. I deliberately put the word in quotation marks because it’s extremely difficult these days to know whether a player is actually injured or just pretending – in other words, cheating.
The ref saw nothing wrong and allowed play to continue. Leeds went on and scored, and all hell broke loose.
The normal, acceptable course of action is that the ball is put out of play by either team and the player receives attention, but not in this case.
After the pushing and shoving had subsided, the ref dished out disciplinary punishment, including a red card, and play continued. The goal stood.
Somewhere in between it was secretly agreed that Aston Villa, as the aggrieved party, would be allowed to go and score uncontested. And so the game ended 1-1 (see article on this page regarding the same incident).
The second incident was in South Africa in a game between SuperSport United and Bidvest Wits.
The ball was blasted in, hit the underside of the crossbar, and then bounced down and over the line and out again.
Wits were claiming a goal. The ref wasn’t sure and decided to consult with his assistant. Following a brief lull and an even briefer conversation, the referee decided that the ball had not crossed the goal line, so the goal was ruled out and that game also ended 1-1.
Now, firstly, let me state here and now so that there is no misunderstanding – Law 5 (Referees) of the Fifa Laws of the Game states quite unambiguously (paraphrased) that the ref’s decision is final. He has the final say. You may not like it, but that’s the way it is.
Even with the now famous or infamous video assistant referee (VAR) system, the referee on the field still has the final say.
There is one common thread between England and South Africa – neither use VAR.
What I did notice in the South African game was that the referee and his assistants also did not have earpieces. Not that that would have made any difference, because they also don’t have goal-line technology, the watch-like instrument worn on the right hand to indicate if the ball has crossed the line or not.
Incidentally, they also don’t have the “magic spray” that is used to mark out the 9.15m spot for free kicks.
So, to sum up, the referee in England was 100% correct to allow the game to continue. He is also powerless to stop a goal being scored at the other end uncontested.
In the South African case, the referees need their equipment to be working, although it would not have mattered in this case.
Why is there a necessity for VAR? Why can’t Safa or the PSL sanction a referee to sit in the SuperSport (the official broadcaster) broadcast unit and assist the referee from there?
There are plenty of replays and a decision could be made in less than one minute.
But if the guys don’t have their earpieces, it makes this suggestion null and void.