Friday, 28 January 2011

Are You Blind Referee?

Yesterday I met a referee. This I found extremely surprising, as I didn't know they existed outside of a football field. Furthermore, he was nothing like how I expected him to be. Whilst he had refereed up to Blue Square North standard, been an assisstant referee to Blue Square Premier and fourth official in the Championship (and had the pictures to prove it), he had perfect 20/20 vision (which is apparently a very good comeback to arsey players), and he never carried a portable TV with which he could watch a different game. Also, he did not have cards that he was 'itching' to get out of his pocket and frankly couldn't care less about who was at home. Yes, he was a football fan just like you and me, but, he said, when it came to his job, he wanted to do it to the best of his ability, not to annoy the bald, shouty man in the crowd.

This was something of a revelation for me. The referee, the man that I spend my Saturday afternoons scowling at and saying disparaging remarks about, was actually a normal person. And dammit, I even liked the fellow. I spent the night out observing how the referee enjoyed having a few drinks, joking around, dancing with his girlfriend, having a takeaway and so on (I should point out at this point that his girlfriend is a flatmate which is why and how I met him, and I didn't actually spend the whole night staring at him!).

But, surely this 'revelation' of mine is obvious. No-one really believes that referees are locked in a cupboard until matchday. However, consider a typical conversation about a referee; "Bob, see the ref give that howler in the Villa game the other day?", "I did Eric, bloody awful, when will they bring in goal-line technology?" There is no real consideration for the difficulty of the job. It is almost too easy to judge from our comfortable positions in armchairs, saying the ref "should have got that right", or "there's no excuses for that". In the soft glow of our television screens, slow-motion replays from a plethora of differing angles may show that the referee was completely and utterly wrong, but put yourself in the referee's shoes for a minute. Remember he is human and is doing his best. Personally I find it amazing that they can keep up with play for 90 minutes, let alone blow a whistle by the end of it.

After doing a bit of research I found this- - utterly excellent video of a year in the life of Martin Hansson, the referee who was at the centre of the controversy which surrounded France's qualification into the World Cup. It explores all aspects of his life and the affect that high-profile refereeing has on them. It's well worth a watch (and it's only half an hour.... go on!).

I was also reminded of an incident I saw earlier this season in the Ossett Albion vs Chester game. An Ossett striker decided it might be a good idea for him to punch our centre-back and captain George Horan in the face, Horan naturally put his hands up to stop the assualt before other players could intervene. This would be, in the black and white laws of the game, a red card for both players. But the referee applied some common sense to the situation, sending off the offending Ossett player (who then tried to fight a member of Chester's support) and booked Horan. An excellent decision in my view. Indeed, the decision was applauded and I, and several others, made a point of shouting to the referee and linesman that an extremely good decision had been made.

It is very easy to be a little bit more respectful towards referees. It's something that the FA have again started encouraging after there Respect campaign petered out, with Respect FC ( This week has seen some attention towards referees that hasn't been completely directed at decisions they have made. I am of course referring to the comments made by those 'professional' pundits which has led to Andy Greys and Richard Keys losing their jobs at Sky. These two could certainly do with having a look at the above website and pondering whether or not they would like to be stereotyped and belittled as Sian Massey has.

I will end with this final thought. Perhaps at the next match you attend, instead of swearing at the referee for a poor decision, why not encourage your players to get their heads up? To carry on working hard and get what they deserve? You still get to shout something, but it will be somethign that's all together more constructive.

Thanks again for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah right, you were stood in a corner watching me all night...