Love me or loathe me? I’m back once again with the weird behaviour! All you FFC veterans will remember me as the nutter, that brought you the notion of Ref-Cam…or perhaps the slightly more sane soul, who posed the question of maybe turning the whistle blowers mic’s on to help restore some respect to the referees in the Premier League? Unfortunately, there will be no public enquiry into the NOTW for ripping off the latter. Due to me taking an oath as a young child, to never kick a dog, when it’s down…or indeed dead.
Now the question has to be asked, of what exactly has caused this growing disease amongst the modern referee? A parallel understanding of football! Definition; a view that is not consistent with having really played the game for any extended period of time at any level and differs completely from everyone watching the incident. Or as in the case of World Cup Final assistant Darren Cann at Villa Park this weekend…simply guessing what happened.
Now the players don’t help…shame on you. It only seems to take a sneeze nowadays to launch one into the next county to writhe about as if they’ve been hit square on by a sixteen stone rugby player at pace, who genuinely, wants to smash them into bits (pay-per-view intellectual rights on that Rupert, for the time being just pick a player and make it happen). Who did you pick? Neither do the managers for letting the players get away with it. What is now known as gaining a competitive edge and correct me if I’m wrong, used to be known as cheating, didn’t it?
Sky and their multiple slow-motion replays don’t help. Making us all brilliant referees in the process. Yeah face it armed with Sky+, we are the mutts nuts. Albeit away from the effing and blinding and the odd fan. You see anyone can make a case for or against, having seen an incident multiple times and from every conceivable angle.
The FA, UEFA, FIFA and other governing bodies don’t help…big shame on you. Their baffling resistance to the introduction of technology coupled with their insistence on flooding the various touchlines with extra officials makes the mind boggle. I can only assume any introduction of technology…will interfere with Sepp Blatter’s ability to Fix International Football Affairs, that is what FIFA stands for isn’t it? The FA announcing recently, that goal-line technology will arrive, but no plans to embrace technology any further than that. What’s the point? As far as I’m concerned, this would only cover a few incidents a week at best and leaves football lagging behind other sports, such as Rugby Union, which has only been professional since 1995.
We have technology and they don’t! It is what it is! Refs will get decisions wrong, without assistance. Whom some might argue are too many in number these days. The two standing behind the goal in the Champions and Europa League, not allowed flags, but given truncheons instead. Perhaps a little crowd control entrusted on them by UEFA, as something else to do? They don‘t even stand on the right side of the goal anymore…so near, yet so far. Are they frightened…or something? Just want to be nearer the Alpha-assistants and their bright shiny flags, which attract their master’s attention so readily for petting in the middle of the park. They might as well have those things you blow bubbles with. Platini can afford them and Michael doesn’t need them now.
Gareth Southgate asked this question of UEFA in the Champions League last week. The answer, has left me a little more than perplexed. They now stand on that side of the goal covering the same area as their more illustrious counterparts armed with proper attention inducing devices because referees like to run the diagonal. Excuse my French, fluent as it is, but WTF? Their very own Now We See More video, has them standing, where they were originally meant to stand. Can’t wait for the sequel Now We See Less Again.
However, this is Europe and most of us are more concerned with what happens a little closer to home in the Premiership, Championship and beyond. Referee Academies are what is happening! Now I’m all for training centres in general for referees, but these academies are breeding referees, who have a parallel understanding of what is fast becoming the not so beautiful game. Is it right to take a young person, who wants to be a ref, but should as I was, still be playing football? Put them in an Academy, where he or she is taught the ABC of whistle blowing, that’s Advanced Buffer Circle by the way (look it up) and other such nonsense thought up by the people in charge. Fast-Tracking and thrusting them into the limelight before they’re ready. Often being promoted over more experienced, but older refs from the lower leagues, who might be perceived as not having enough shelf life. The pressure is simply too much for them and they have learnt their football knowledge from the rule book instead of playing the game. Thus giving them a parallel understanding of a game played in a high octane, high stakes environment.
That said, is there any other way at the moment? Recruitment and retention of referees is a huge problem. So lastly, shame on me…and shame on any of you, who almost, but never quite made it to the holy grail as a player. For we might have made very good referees. Referees, who might have even commanded a little respect amongst these modern day prima-donna’s due to actually having played the game. I had to stop playing at 31, due to a touch of the Ledley King’s. My knees were shot basically…for any of you, that live on Mars. However, becoming a ref to be abused for £14 a pop did not enter my mind as an option to keep myself embroiled within the game. Why would you? It takes a special type of person to want to pursue a career in officiating, without the help of technology. Unfortunately, these do not appear at this point in time to be the same people, who have a genuine understanding, passion and love for the game. They become coaches or slope off into their relative careers like you and I and shout opinions from safety of the stands and their armchairs.
All said and done we’re all responsible partly for this parallel understanding of football by some referees. The authorities for refusing the availability of technology and running football in an arse-about-face sort of way, the media for having the technology and overusing it, the players that cheat, the managers that let them cheat and the fans pouring scorn on refs, who are simply human, but wouldn’t put themselves in their shoes. I’ll leave you with this. I’ll sign up to become a ref if 10 of you join me. I won’t be holding my breath on this one, but just say that if the genuine football fan has no interest. Then we will get people, who appear to have no idea becoming referees and academies willing to give that parallel understanding of football to them via the rule book. As Roberto Mancini would say ‘This is football’ and until cows land on the moon or technology arrives in full. We all have to accept it good and bad for what it is.