There is as much chance of a week going by without someone criticising a referee or a new charge being brought against a manager for their post-match comments as there is of Gary Neville buying a Manchester City scarf. Every time I turn on Sky Sports news, there always seems to be news involving a dubious decision from the weekend and the thoughts of everyone from Joey Barton on twitter to Martin Samuels, with people questioning if the spirit of the game is being destroyed by referees.
There seem to be two things that most football fans require from refs above all others. One is consistency – something that we have seen improve in recent times, especially with regards to tackles from behind and two footed challenges now meaning automatic cards, yet even so this is still an area that could be improved.
The other thing that should be a must is the ability to exercise some common sense when officiating a game. Even if technology was introduced, whilst it could clear up issues such as goal line technology, it would not change whether or not the referee used a modicum of common sense when making a decision.
In the modern game, it seems to be forgotten that – despite all the money involved and the off the field scandals that now seem as natural as Messi banging in the goals – there is still a great deal of emotion and heart in football. Yes there are players like Harry Kewell who play football because they can, not because they really care, but for every Kewell, there is a Carragher, who lives and breathes football, and sometimes emotion can get the better of a player on the field.
One of the most used examples to illustrate this is the issue of celebrating a goal, and the referee following the yellow card rule to the letter of the law. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a player arguably goes too far – Neville running the length of the pitch to celebrate against Liverpool springs to mind, but simply running toward home fans or taking a shirt off in the moment are not really offences that should be carded.
One of the very few examples of a referee showing common sense recently came after Doncaster player Billy Sharp scored a goal hours after his son tragically passed away and removed his shirt to show a tribute to his late son – the referee in question Darren Deadman did not book Sharp, and showed a great deal of common sense by not doing so.
If ever there was an example of the spirit of the game being intact, from players, fans and officials it was this – yet it should not be the case that this is only displayed in the face of such a tragedy. There are far more examples of officials making poor decisions than good ones – at this point a list as tall as Peter Crouch could be produced – with Howard Webb’s back pass decision dominating the headlines this week when it comes to the latest bloopers from officials.
There are some games, granted that are very difficult to officiate – Webb can be used again here – as despite the criticism after the World Cup final, in reality Webb did not do too badly in a game in which De Jong took tips from Cantona with Holland’s main stratergy to negate the Spanish talent being to kick the players not the ball. However, there are occasions where officials lose sight of the game and what it really stands for, becoming card happy and basically turning the game into a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
A poor decision can effectively end a tight game – look at the Merseyside derby after Atkinson wrongly sent off Rodwell – the game was basically lost at that moment and spoilt for both sets of fans and players.
If a referee was to display a shred of common sense when players commit what is by letter of the law an offence but in reality could be overlooked for the good of the game, they would be applauded not criticised for it – take Van Persie’s card for kicking the ball after the whistle at the Nou Camp, which could have been so easily avoided and stopped any chance Arsenal had of getting the one goal needed at that point to progress.
Does the referee really have any reason to adhere so tightly to the letter of the law in such situations? Surely the reprisals from governing bodies such as UEFA cannot be so frightening that a referee forgets all common sense and spirit of the game?
A much greater level or respect would be given to said referees and governing bodies if they focused on the real issues facing the game rather than if a player tweets an offensive picture – Ryan Babel I am talking to you here – or unveils a message on a shirt after scoring a goal?
FIFA have let the poppy row rumble on for a good week before coming to a compromise, yet no matter what the Spanish crowd chant at certain English players, expect little to no action – perhaps a small fine in the region of 5000 euros.
The FA have managed to bring charges against Tony Pulis and AVB for comments made about officials in recent weeks, yet cannot seem to find the time to properly investigate the two separate race rows that are running on and on. AVB’s comments were made after the very same game John Terry stands accused of racially abusing Ferdinand in, yet it speaks volumes that the FA are more concerned about fining AVB money he would rather be spending on Christmas presents than concluding the JT race row.
Is it any wonder both players and fans then accuse the officials and governing bodies of losing sight of the bigger picture and the spirit within the game? Human errors can be forgiven by fans– perhaps after a substantial amount of time has passed –as we all appreciate that referees are just like the rest of us, and are capable of making a mistake, but what is hard to forgive and indeed forget is when a referee loses sight of the bigger picture and forgets the spirit of the game. When this is remembered, something far more special than a football result can take place – just ask the Doncaster fans and Billy Sharp. It’s just a shame we don’t see more officials act the way Darren Deadman did.