Reffing is not for sissies as assaults on match officials increase

Errol Sweeney (Supplied)
Errol Sweeney (Supplied)

Johannesburg - I recently read a report about a level 3 referee in the UK who decided to hang up his whistle following a second assault.

He said he’d had enough and wasn’t prepared to jeopardise his health as he has a wife and family to support.

To me this is a very sad, regrettable but understandable situation, and one which appears to be prevalent today, especially in the lower divisions of football around the world.

The thugs and scoundrels who perpetrate such vile behaviour need to understand that such cases cannot and should not go unpunished.

Referees have been seriously injured, and some have been killed, as a result of attacks by players and spectators.

This is no laughing matter and the powers that be need to act quickly when such attacks happen

It is not good enough to make patronising statements and verbally condemn the action.

Such words are little comfort for an unfortunate official lying in a hospital bed, or being prepared for burial.

I don’t mean to sensationalise or be too dramatic, but our match officials need to know that when they go out on a weekend to take charge of a game, they will have the security needed to protect them should such an incident present itself.

I’m sure many of my colleagues could tell you stories that would make your hair stand up.

I was assaulted in South Africa, so I know what I’m talking about.

I have suffered several other incidents when I was verbally abused and had to be taken out of stadiums in the back of an unmarked police car.

There was also an incident when a “fan” of one club phoned my office and said if his team didn’t win on the following Sunday, I would “get a bullet in your face”.

Then there was the case when I had a round of ammunition left in my hotel room. I was refereeing a bottom of the table relegation clash.

How did that person know I was the referee? How did that person know which hotel or room I was in?

Referees and their assistants give of their time and energy for little return, or none in some instances.

In fact, I’ll bet that some are probably out of pocket when all is said and done.

First, they have to buy a uniform, boots, socks, whistles, watches and other sporting paraphernalia, and then attend several days and nights at meetings and seminars so they can be mentally and verbally fit for what lies ahead.

Michael Oliver to ref FA Cup Final

It’s just been announced that Michael Oliver will take charge of this year’s FA Cup Final at Wembley.

You may remember it was Oliver who was verbally and physically pushed by GianLuigi Buffon and his team mates in the recent quarterfinal of the Uefa Champions League.

Oliver correctly awarded a penalty, and then quite rightly dismissed the 40-year-old Juventus keeper.

The ref deserves to be applauded for his bravery on that night.

It has to be said that I know some officials who would have turned a blind eye. No one ever said it was easy being a referee, and it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. It’s even more difficult when the players are deliberately falling down like they have been hit by a ton of bricks.

It’s a clear intention by these players to try and influence the referee and to get the crowd on the ref’s back.

Thankfully Oliver stood his ground, and for that he deserves credit.

Happy whistling.

sports@citypress.co.za

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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