Respect is something that has to be earned

by , October 5, 2008

The FA very grandly trumpeted their new ‘respect’ campaign earlier this year. Notionally they wanted to improve player behaviour (and that of ‘pushy parents’!) at grassroots level. The more public face of this was high profile endorsement by famous respecters of referees and their like (sic), John Terry. It’s why we seem to have a Champions League style line-up before each game now, and supposedly players are strongly encouraged to, well, behave themselves. This should manifest in no more niggly fouls, no badgering or surrounding the referee, an attempt to cut out the gamesmanship. Well, clearly these messages aren’t reaching League One referees.

I’ve yet to see one remotely try to enforce these values, and perhaps it was inevitable that my bubbling rage boiled over in a furious torrent of vitriol today thanks to the shameful conduct of Neil Warnock’s Crystal Palace side today. I often go on record over on the forum in defence of the often maligned cartoon-villain that dear old ‘Colin Wanker’ has become – but I must confess that I had half-forgotten about the less savoury elements that are so prevalent in his teams.

One of the few things I will praise Gary Megson for was his downright and steadfast refusal to put up with Warnock’s shenanigans back when the pair were in charge of West Brom and Sheffield United respectively. He is a good manager, a good motivator, an entertaining talker – he generally has talented sides capable of playing decent football – but they cheat. They dive, they feign injury, they work to get players booked, they are sly at impeding play or kicking the ball away – they are constantly in the referee’s ear whining and complaining. They do all the things that this high profile campaign is supposed to eradicate.

And Warnock is merely the grand master of this gamesmanship; pretty much every side that has visited the City Ground has gotten away with ‘playing’ the referee; and it undermines the whole system. You can’t really blame Warnock for being a custodian of a bunch of cheating bastards, when those cheating bastards palpably get benefit from their antics going unpunished. We can point an accusing finger at the officials for their lack of willingness to assert proper authority, for being incompetent or – dare we say – being influenced by the cunning wiles of players coached by the likes of Warnock?We can blame the authorities for completely failing to stamp on behaviour like this. As much as I loathe egg-chasing, some elements of the sport have to be applauded – only the captain can talk to the referee, why not implement this system? If you whine to the referee, you’re booked. Do it again, you’re off. Referees should also be more closely scrutinised for consistency, because decisions get made that have real consequences, consequences that can’t be appealed – it’s just silly. And finally, we have the technology available now to implement the use of video footage to help make the right decisions – why on Earth would we not do so?

In short, the Respect campaign is proving so far to be simply an insipid and uninspiring collection of aims and objectives with no meaningful empowerment nor action to realise them. Far be it for me to actually expect a stuffy organisation like the FA to actually have the proactivity to actually deal with a problem by implimenting meaningful changes in the laws of the game; we all know it’s unlikely – but is it really too much to expect the referees and their assitants to apply the laws that are already there with some degree of consistency?