Yesterdays excellent post by weedonald prompted many good comments. One of our overseas bloggers – shard – sent this in as a response to that post and he includes his ideas for how the problem could be addressed.
The question to ask is, why do referees not enforce the laws properly, and if they don’t, why don’t their associations sort it out? And also slimgingergooner said, referees need support and to be backed to call a penalty for what is an offense (shirt pulling).. Why so? Why do referees face censure for following rules?
Partly, it’s because the football pundits propagate nonsense like ‘he got the ball’, ‘6 of one, half a dozen of the other’, ‘in the good ol days, it won’t even have been a free kick’ etc. This, increases the pressure on the referees, but for all the wrong reasons. Conversely, where referees do act contrary to at least the spirit of the law, the media looks to make excuses, or over scrutinise the player..’he should know better, he had to be careful having already been booked’.
I also agree with slim that referees’ mistakes are shown up more compared to rugby, and as such they have less respect from players and fans. But that is the authorities fault, They refuse to make all available resources an option for referees to get the call right, they put referees on a pedestal, and they refuse media access to the referees. In Germany, where referees speak to the media after the games, they can explain why they gave a certain decision, or even admit they made a mistake, and largely, the public accepts it and I’m sure players respect them more too. If someone refuses to accept mistakes and carries on as per usual, that’s when respect is eroded.
In summary, referees don’t respect the laws, the players don’t respect referees, the media perpetuate myths about the laws, the public understand neither the laws nor the referees’ actions, leading to confusion and arbitrariness all around with football being the loser.
Changes I’d like to see
Video replays – I know this is controversial, but it is perverse that when I , sitting halfway across the world, can see in 5 seconds that a wrong call was made, the referees themselves can’t rectify it. Fears of the game slowing down might be exaggerated even if they are real, and in any case, we should have trials in the lower leagues/friendlies to see how it works and how it can work better.
Referees being miked up – Like in Rugby. You have the referee explaining his decision in real time to the players, the people at the ground, as well as people watching on tv. This increases understanding among all, and also acts as a major incentive for referees to get their calls right. The only reason so far that I’ve come across, of why this can’t be done is because apparently footballers use colourful language which will outrage anyone watching on tv. Firstly, I don’t think football fans are that sensitive. Secondly, they can always ensure players mind their language. The NBA does it and it took a while, but now players behave themselves as a matter of course. A couple of fines and things will be sorted.
Committee of Ethics – Ok. this was actually Wenger’s term and idea, but it is based on the recognition that even with video replays, let alone without, referees make mistakes, and football authorities reserve the right to set those right. Actually, this is already so. The FA CAN act when it wants to, and its claims of FIFA rules, are a convenient lie. The problem with this is, that it is used arbitrarily. Wayne Rooney’s elbow onto the Wigan player’s head, Balotelli’s leg breaker on Song, cannot be punished. Derry’s red card cannot be overturned. Song’s stamp on Barton gets retrospective punishment. Middlesborough, a few years ago, got an extra game ban for their player, for a frivolous appeal, when in my opinion it was anything but. How to solve that problem, I have no idea and welcome suggestions. But the principle of overturning the bad calls such as for given/not given cards must be established, rather than deeming referees infallible.
Ref Observer Reports - The FA has referee observers at every match. Their reports, or at least the methodology they use to grade referees, as well as their results at the end of the season as regards which referees placed where, should be made public. Any referee consistently finishing below a certain grade must be ‘relegated’. While the claim is that this is done, it should be done in a transparent manner.
For the rest, of course, the existing laws must be applied fairly, judiciously, and at all times. That’s what the referee training and selection process is for after all. Training them to do their job. And although I am a very harsh critic of referees, I think most referees want to do a good job but are either let down/overlooked by their associations, and/or left as convenient targets to absorb all the criticism. The crisis in refereeing, is something I see as a crisis of administration.
Written by Shard