Consistent referees = consistent respect

by , September 16, 2008

Amidst the sumptuous competition that was Euro 2008, ran the campaign for respect towards referees. If you stretch your mind back you can possibly remember the cringe worthy cameo from our (post-Croatia) talismanic coach Fabio – the great – Capello. Now like many football fans I operate the fence hopping position, let me explain; things go right, then my view is that referees do get a hard time and deserve all the respect in the world. Things go wrong, then a chorus of, ‘he don’t know what he’s doin!!’ is but a prelude to the torrent of abuse that will leave my lips within the confines of 90 minutes, and in truth beyond the 90 minutes.

However I must confess, I cannot stand to see players creating a bully circle around the referee, Chelsea to name the obvious perpetrators, though they were not the only team that did it by any means last season. So rightly so, referees had had enough and wanted something done, and the respect campaign was a welcome sight for me and hopefully many other football fans agree. However, if the players are to obey the, ‘the referees word is final’ rule, then the referees word better be consistent and rather unsurprisingly, this is not the case. Saturdays gone gave us a great example of referee inconsistency, though I would prefer incompetence but I also think that may be slightly too harsh, after all they are only human, right? There is a solution for that though don’t you think?

Before I delve into those talking points, let’s take a look at Saturday’s contentious issues. First let’s look at the red card that NEVER in a month of Sunday’s should have been in the clash of the cash at Middle Eastlands – Man City v Chelsea. 13 minutes to go, John Terry is taken on by Jo and is beaten, so like any other self respecting captain, he takes one for the team and puts an arm across Jo and takes him down, Ricardo Carvalho is covering, Terry gets up and jogs back knowing full well what is coming, so gets ready to organise his defence. The shock that appeared on his face was mimicked by every Chelsea fan in the stadium, on my face on my sofa and in the voice of the commentators on Shit-anta. The red card held aloft was not harsh, but just plain wrong. As usual, the forth official is forced to back his colleague, but in doing so it seemed as if he flicked through the rule book and picked the hardest thing to contest, that being serious foul play. Now this is what serious foul play is defined as, ‘uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is play.’ I do not think I need to explain any further why Mark Halsey was wrong. Now then the question of consistency comes into play when you take into consideration the same tackle taking place in Saturday’s early kickoff which saw Liverpool take on Man U. Vidic only received a booking for a tackle that which had much more in common with the ‘serious foul play’ definition than John Terry, perhaps violently cynical would be a fitting title. Now if the latter earns you a yellow over plain cynical then I do not apologise for the abuse levelled at referees from a fan perspective and if referees get decisions as wrong as Halsey did, then has his forth official back him up by spouting inconsistent laws at the press, players, managers and whoever else, then they are barely worthy of players respect as well. Referees are human yes, but a cynical foul by the half way line by a player who isn’t even the last man and therefore is not denying a goal scoring opportunity, is an easy on, my cousin’s ten and he was chastising the referee with me – and he hates Chelsea.

Now fair enough referees make mistakes, but had Everton lost or drawn at Stoke on Sunday, I guarantee that David Moyes would have descended from the stands to which he had been banished like Zeus and smote Alan Wiley and especially the lines man that ruled the blatant penalty was in fact a blatant free kick outside the box. Now every replay that ever existed of that incident shows that he was wrong, you could see it on Google earth it is that plain-as-day. Now when every man and his dog can see it, yet the officials get it wrong, it does not make it easy to respect these officials. But if the FA would stop being stubborn and simply hurry up with allowing the forth official to use video footage a la Rugby, then these problems would go away. The argument that it will slow the game down is null and void, just use it for penalty decisions. In Rugby, the referee uses it mostly to discern between try/no try – that solves the ‘destruction of flow’ argument. Of course this introduction would also bring into question goal mouth technology as well, but I am sure we all remember the goal that never was between Man U and Tottenham. That incident alone should have meant I had no reason to mention it in this piece – it should already be implemented. These two pieces of simple technology would allow referees to have more power over games as they could check the video footage and turn around to a player/manager and go, the video doesn’t lie and even smile smugly when they are right and when they are wrong it allows them to instantly make sure they rectify their mistake so the only thing affecting the fortunes, or misfortunes, of a team is how good/badly they play not how good/bad the referee is on the day. If players are to respect referees, then these technologies need to be added, after all who can argue with a referee after the video proves them to be right? Answer: an idiot and in that case he deserves a red card.