The Whistle Blower

June 1st, 2018

This edition we will look at the issue that I believe dissuades new referees and loses more referees than any other.

Culturally, as a society, it seems it is acceptable to not only blame the referee for a loss or a goal, but also to aggressively and personally abuse them in the process. People often say to me (as I do ask myself after some games) “how or why do you do it, I couldn’t stand it?” Usually I reply that not everyone is the same and when you do get a genuine compliment it makes up for a lot. I also genuinely enjoy being still involved in football (after having previously played) and do get to watch the game from a different perspective. I also usually confess that as a player, I was guilty of the things I now see are not right. It’s wrong and I was wrong.

I often say to people that there is no way that anyone would accept a supporter standing on the sidelines hurling vitriolic abuse at a complete strangers child or partner when they miskick a ball or miss a goal scoring opportunity, yet we seem to be alright with it if the referee makes a perceived or genuine error. It’s the same with players, rarely does anyone abuse an opponent when they make a mistake. It wouldn’t be accepted. The opponent for one wouldn’t take it.

And that’s what most people don’t seem to get, number one is that it IS someone’s son, daughter or even husband or wife that is being yelled at and often their parents or partner are in the crowd listening to you doing so. What makes us as a group feel this is OK? I’m not sure, but until people around the abusers tell them it’s not ok it will continue.

And number two, it is often your perception that it is an error. Generally the referee is the closest impartial and trained observer to the action. Angles and distance are very often very misleading and you certainly can’t take the players reaction as a guide. There is plenty of gamesmanship going on out there, let me tell you!!!

Players, spectators and coaches have a vested interest in the result and are rarely impartial. 99% of the time the referees are the only impartial observers out there.

I won’t even start on the rules most don’t know or understand correctly.

Certainly I understand that there is passion from fans and players and YES referees do make mistakes. However, it’s one thing to have a go at a professional or semi-professional well trained referee, but the local derby, in the local league, where the amateur referees are doing their best and are out there for the exercise or as a hobby to earn pocket money is a completely different scenario. It’s just not on. Or fair.

Let’s look at the game from a referees perspective. Most games will involve at least 3-5 decisions a minute over the 90 minutes. That’s around 300 a game.

Every tackle is a decision. Every aerial challenge, every corner, goal kick and throw in. Not awarding a foul is still a decision. The balance of probabilities is, yes we will get some wrong, but even the World Cup referees do. Lately we have seen the introduction of the VAR and even they get it wrong! It’s simply not possible to expect any referee to be 100% correct, but players and spectators need to understand that the referee has to make a call based on what they see and the interpretation of law. We need to respect the decision for what it is, the one that has been made and generally will not be changed.

Disappointment is to be expected, abuse is not to be tolerated. Until we change our perspective and decide not to accept our fellow supporters and/or teammates abusing the referees, no matter what anybody in governance does, we will still lose referees each year and also fail to attract new ones.

Think before you speak. Remember it’s someone’s son, daughter or partner out there doing their best to help you have a game.

Next edition will be about some of the quirky rules in football.

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