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The ‘Respect the Ref’ campaign is something I fully support, after watching football players abuse the referee for years. Whilst as part of the crowd I have done this on numerous occasions, there is something so classless and disrespectful when the players on the pitch do it. They are all professionals and there should be a certain amount of respect there. Yes, the referee is going to get it wrong at times, but then, so do the players.
When a player is offside, we don’t see the linesman running on to the pitch, calling the striker all the names under the sun for not being able to beat the offside trap. When one player catches another with a lazy tackle, the referee doesn’t scream and shout whilst showing the yellow card.
It is a trend indicative of modern society I suppose, with kids swearing at their teachers in the classroom and punters at the local pub telling the police to do one when they’ve come to settle a dispute. Yeh the teacher might have done something to wind the kid up, yeh a copper might have rubbed up someone the wrong way in the past, but when did that give people the right to abuse others for doing their job?
Referees get decisions wrong and they will continue to get decisions wrong because, like all people, they make mistakes. However infuriating the fans find it when the ref blows over a soft challenge, it’s the players’ responsibility as professionals to grit their teeth and get on with it.
However, I think this ‘respect’ issue needs to work both ways. Respect is something that is earned, not given freely because one is told to do so. No matter how many times I watch Roy Keane and co. chase after Andy D’Urso, no matter how wrong I think our players were for doing that, I always wonder what the hell that referee was doing. Stand on your own two feet and start showing your cards, as that would be a sure way to halt the stampede.
Rarely does that happen, though. Going back to Ashley Cole’s foul on Alan Hutton, a challenge he was lucky not to have received a straight red card for, and seeing his tirade of abuse directed at Mike Riley, only to see that go entirely unpunished, with just a yellow for the challenge, has got to make you laugh. Why respect a man, a referee, who allows players to walk all over him?
Of course, when he was in charge of the Chelsea vs United game, Riley wasn’t going to stand for any nonsense. Whilst Cole received nothing, not even a ticking off, for his abuse in the Spurs game, Cristiano Ronaldo received a yellow card for wagging his finger in the direction of the same ref, whilst on his knees, yards away from the man in black. This isn’t a defence of United players, rather genuine confusion over what the regulations for this ‘respect’ campaign are. Finger wagging: yellow card, tirade of abuse: nothing. When you look at United’s next game after Chelsea, Middlesbrough in the League Cup, Southgate’s men crowded the referee following Emanuel Pogatetz’s sending off, with Gary O’Neil even grabbing referee Andre Marriner’s arm as he protested his teammate’s innocence, yet none of them were booked.
My point here isn’t United are treated unfairly, I’m simply quoting situations I’m more familiar with as a United fan, and every fan will be able to quote similar injustices for their team. The point is that decisions for ‘disrespect’ change from referee to referee, player to player, match to match, team to team. Every weekend from now on I imagine there will be players booked for not respecting the referee, yet in another match down the road, other players will be guilty of the same crime, or worse, but will be let off. Until every player who isn’t the captain is booked for contesting decisions, then the campaign will remain a farce.
I started writing this after hearing that Adrian Boothroyd has been charged because of the disrespect he showed Stuart Attwell. The Watford manager went off on one after seeing the inexperienced ref award a goal to Watford’s opposition, Reading, when the ball went nowhere near the goal line.
We see managers on the touchline every week having a go at the referee for missing a bad challenge or not awarding a penalty, yet how many of them are charged? It feels as though it’s a weekly occurrence to see the fourth official taking one manager or another to the side to calm him down, yet how often are these managers charged for disrespecting the referee? Very rarely.
Whilst missed blatant penalties or horrific challenges must be extremely frustrating for the manager to watch, surely they should be held to the respect campaign just as much, if not more so, as their players.
Awarding a goal that was nowhere close to crossing the line has got to be the most infuriating call of all, I can only imagine. Boothroyd has been punished, but what about all the times Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Rafael Benitez etc. have been guilty of ranting at the referee but let off with nothing?
As always with the FA, it is their inconsistencies which bring about the criticism, not their principles. It is right to come down hard on players who miss/fail drugs tests, but why are some players given harsher punishments than others? It is right to make an example of players who commit violent challenges on the pitch, but why are some let off more lightly than others? In regards to respecting the referee, I totally agree that players and managers alike should face the rap for screaming abuse at the officials, but I can’t abide by their decisions which seem to lack all logic, punishing some, but not others.
In the case of Boothroyd, I completely understand why he lost his cool with the referee, but if we are to take this campaign seriously, then it is right he should be punished. However, Keith Hackett isn’t ensuring that his referees are all singing from the same hymn sheet, and the independent board, which has the final rulings on charges, picks and chooses how harshly to punish people, if at all, and seem to rely on a Magic 8 ball for their decisions.
Until the FA enforces that all players and managers respect the referee, than their campaign is for nothing, and farcical charges like this against Boothroyd only strengthen people’s dislike of the FA and highlight their glaringly obvious incompetence and inconsistencies.