How will referees’ decisions affect soccer in Russia?

Errol Sweeney (Supplied)
Errol Sweeney (Supplied)

Johannesburg - It’s a well-worn phrase that there cannot be a game without a referee. Generally, it’s a team of three officials for so-called important games. Sometimes in lower leagues, there are no assistants – linesmen, as we used to call them – just a referee on his own. I’ve done plenty of those.

Today, there can be as many as nine, as in the opening game of the World Cup between Russia and Saudi Arabia on Thursday. Imagine so many officials for one game.

Doesn’t it seem ridiculous, bizarre almost? Why so many? Why can’t they just continue with the normal four – made up of the referee, two assistants and a fourth official? Only they know.

Well, the truth is they can, but they just don’t want to. I’ve long been a supporter of the video assistant referee (VAR) system because of the nonsense generated by players trying to hoodwink the men in black, week in and week out. It doesn’t happen with the women, as I’ve already mentioned in previous articles.

The skulduggery and shenanigans undertaken by these overpaid prima donnas makes me sick. Many of my friends and acquaintances are turning away from the beautiful game because of this very issue.

Hence we now have the VARs and the assistant VARs. So the question is: When will it end?

I’ll tell you.

- It will end when the referees and their assistants get off their collective backsides and deal with this cancer in our game;

- It will end when match officials pluck up the courage to deal with play-acting;

- It will definitely end when the soccer politicians decide and agree to back the referees when they red-card any, and I mean any, player who breaks the law – no exceptions.

Too often in the past, players got away with murder just because they were a household name or a so-called crowd-puller, and they appeared to be acting with impunity as a result.

This is wrong. We all know it’s wrong, yet, game after game, the same players regularly and blatantly bring the game into disrepute.

Law five, which deals with the referee and their responsibilities, states that the referee’s decision is final. It goes on to point out that the referee can only change his mind on a decision as long as he has not restarted the game.

But what do we get?

We get committees sitting in judgment 24 or 48 hours after a game, adjudicating whether a red or yellow card should be rescinded.

This is wrong because it flies in the face of the Fifa laws of the game and completely undermines the authority of the match officials in the eyes of teams, the coaching staff and the spectators.

As has been stated many times before, referees are only human and will make mistakes. That is covered in the laws, and allowance should and must be made for such an eventuality.

However, with the VAR system being used in Russia for the first time at a World Cup, most indiscretions should not go unnoticed and hopefully the culprits will get their just deserts.

Finally, I want to wish all the referees, assistant referees, fourth officials, additional assistant referees, VARs and assistant VARs the best of luck. I hope it will be a tournament to be remembered for all the right reasons, with as little focus on the match officials as possible.

I hope they will be allowed to do their job to the best of their ability, with little interference from anyone – and I mean anyone.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

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