Respecting referees feels like it has been on the national agenda for at least the past five years, but with numerous half-hearted campaigns and contradictory punishments being handed out by the Football Association, the utopia of respect for referees was never going to be reached.
When I was a young lad growing up, there were two things I always knew and never doubted or questioned; one was that a pie at half time was the greatest taste ever and the other was that the referee’s decision is final, wrong or right.
The lack of respect in the modern game from managers, players and fans alike has become unacceptable, especially when you consider the likes of former Swedish referee Anders Frisk retiring his whistle after receiving death threats from bitter Chelsea fans over their Champions League exit to Barcelona a few years ago. Should there be reforms to the beautiful game, to bring referees the protection and respect they deserve?
Rugby is a fine example of a game that maintains respect throughout for the officials; one aspect in particular I feel the beautiful game could benefit from is the idea of sin binning. A player begins a tirade at the referee knowing full well that the worst punishment he could receive is a yellow card, there is little in place to dissuade a player from shouting at the man with the whistle, but would a player still enter into the debate with the ref if he knew that he could be sent off for 10 minutes? This introduction of a sin bin would have further benefits in the world away from the pitch, as Rooney-esque behaviour influences the younger generation of footballer followers, as well as discouraging any potential referees; nobody wants to be subjected to that level of abuse.
I hate myself for even talking of rugby in higher praise than my beloved football, but there are some more rules that should be implemented into football to help protect referees. The most ridiculous rule in football is that if a referee sees an incident (such as Rooney’s elbow to the face), the FA cannot then step in and implement any form of punishment. In the FA’s eyes, by not contradicting the referee they are respecting his decision, but it then leaves the referee in the line of fire for not sending off Rooney in the first place. We all accept that with the game being played at such a high pace and the referees only being human that mistakes will happen but regardless of what the ref saw or didn’t see, the FA should be brave enough to step in and hand out fines and suspensions to take the heat off the man in the middle.
The infamous picture of Roy Keane leading the swarm of Manchester United players surrounding referee Andy D’Urso was nothing short of bullying. Scenes like this have become more and more regular with each season that passes, and nothing has been done to prevent this intimidation tactic; credit to referees, they do sometimes stamp their authority and speak to captains of both teams about reasons for booking a player or get them to have a word with individuals on their team who are in danger of being carded; surely though there needs to be a law in place to outlaw such incidences.
I recently spoke to a friend of mine, an FA qualified referee working in amateur football, who summed it up perfectly: “Of course we’re going to make mistakes, but aggressively criticising them in the form of dissent is doing nothing positive for the game, and if the FA doesn’t try to be more proactive in preventing it then this type of gamesmanship will only continue to infect the beautiful game at all levels. Nobody wants that.”
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