Respect for Referees

Would you like to see referees get more decisions right?

Would you like to see players give referees more respect?

If your answer is yes to one or both of the above questions, then I’ve got news for you – it’s not only possible, it’s quite simple in terms of creating and enforcing specific regulations and introducing technology that works 100% without interfering with play.

The problem is one of mindset – some people are afraid to change anything, and these are usually those who are in charge of the game. Others, perhaps influenced far too much by other sports, advocate changing too much. The spirit of football must be maintained, but at the same time we also need to remove elements that take away from the enjoyment of the game.

Refereeing, as our resident referee (Fifth Column) will confirm, is a thankless job. Players (even goalkeepers) are watched to see how well they play. Match officials are scrutinized to see how many mistakes they make.

To make the comparison, if a player was to come out of a match analysed like a referee, he could have scored three goals and created 2 more, but if had made two critical errors, he would be remembered for the errors and not the hat trick.

The FA is working on a grassroots effort to ‘fix’ football from the bottom up. Graham Poll (much maligned but not alway wrong) says that top players who are role models must be targeted. I think they’re both right, and we can see regluations applied from next season that solve some (if not all) of our problems all across the board.

No point in repeating in detail what we’ve talked about here at Soccerlens in the past; I’ll just list the changes I feel are most critical to improving the game – please add your own thoughts / suggestions in the comments.

  • Only captains can talk to referees in terms of contesting decisions. Surrounding the ref, running up to him and shouting / swearing at him are grounds for a booking (applied much more freely than the usual punishment for dissent).
  • Goal-line technology must be introduced.
  • Post-match review of key incidents to issue bookings / suspensions for violent conduct and simulation. The whole match doesn’t need to be ‘reviewed’ if key incidents are highlighted ahead of time.
  • Allow a fifth official to monitor the game during matches and flag incidents for later review (ties in with the previous point).
  • Issue touchline bans for managers and team officials who excessively abuse referees during the game.
  • Do the same for managers if they go overboard in criticising referees (along with hefty fines).

Referees will not get every decision right – and referees who get decisions wrong must be encourage to improve or let go. However, the game is not helped by players and managers harassing referees.

You know what I would like to see? A referee gives the wrong decision but after confering with the two team captains, reverses it.

Match officials will admit their mistakes more often and make a greater effort to improve themselves if they are given the environment to do so. The current footballing climate just encourages them to be defensive and even more stubborn about their biases against certain players and to never reconsider their decisions.

Once you start clamping down on play-acting, on referee harassment and provide referees with the basic means to get crucial decisions right, then at least we’ll be moving in the right direction.

And for the record, I don’t advocate stopping the game to review each major decision on replays – technology must help football, not interrupt it.

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