OPINION: Abuse of referees is getting worse

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Who would be a referee? I can safely say that any individual that picks up a whistle, dons the black strip and attempts to control 22 fiercely competitive individuals gets my utmost respect.

Of course, any qualified referee has a choice whether or not to get involved within the officiating side of the game but nonetheless it is a pretty thankless task when you sit and think about it.

Everyone at a game of football will have an opinion on the refereeing. Whether it be the players, management or supporters there will always be someone waiting to point out to the individual in charge of the game whether or not he, or she, has done a satisfactory job.

In some instances, these people wouldn’t know what the Laws of the Game handbook looked like if it struck them in the face, yet it is usually these who feel the need to advise the referee what he should do the next time such an incident arises.

I write this article on the back of a really enjoyable evening refereeing a game between two Nottinghamshire Senior League teams who were, in large, respectable, well behaved and responded well to my style of refereeing which is to talk to players and help them to understand why I have given decisions.

You might be thinking, if the game went so well then why choose now to write this article. Well, whilst sitting in the dressing room with my two assistant referees on Friday evening it got me thinking what can be done to ensure that each and every official that takes charge of a game can feel equally fulfilled on a frequent basis.

Firstly, I think a lot of stick referees get is down to some players and management not actually knowing the correct and in-date Laws of the Game and that isn’t right.

I gave a caution on Friday evening for dissent after a player sarcastically clapped at me after he claimed I missed a foul in the build up to a goal against his team. A quick glance at Twitter following the game told me that the players thought that my interpretation was that this classed as a form of dissent.

If you look into the laws of the game you will see that dissent can be in the form of either words or actions and my decision to caution the player was correct in law. Basically, I did my job in a proper manner.

Players have to realise that no referee ever turns up to a game to decide on the laws on that given day. Referees are there to apply a set of laws that are already in place and do not simply make them up as the game goes on. That might sound like a bizarre and patronising thing to point out, but I swear some people within football genuinely believe this to be the case.

Likewise, players have to appreciate that referees turn up to do a job. They are there to enjoy the game of football just as much as the players but fundamentally they are in presence to ensure the match comes to a safe conclusion.

I am yet to meet a referee who says prior to a game, ‘I think I might have a bad game today, miss three clear penalty calls and send two players off incorrectly’. What I am getting at here is that the referee has one view point and can only give what they see from that particular area. Sometimes it’s like the players talk to officials like they’ve never made a mistake on a football pitch and that is what is starting to really rile me.

I sometimes think it might make a nice change if some of these referees came out at the end of the game and offer a manager an opinion on how his team’s back four looked, or how number nine fared in attack, after all lots of people seem to have vocal and sometimes uneducated opinions on referees.

It would be great if managers, coaches and even players gained more visibility to just what match officials go through striving for the perfect game. I think people would be surprised just how difficult a job it is.

I definitely think the powers that be would be wise to offer complimentary workshops for managers so that they can relay to their players exactly what constitutes a caution, red card and even a foul. It seems clear to me at the minute that some people aren’t exactly sure what offences are deemed worthy of a caution. Maybe each club should be forced to have a member of the committee or coaching staff that is a qualified referee. Food for thought.

Any assistance we can give officials is going to help them no doubt, but what sort of help is required? I have to be honest, I am not convinced that video referees are the answer as it could lead to games experiencing lengthy stoppages and keeping the entertainment value is key for the sport.

The overriding morale of the story is that the scrutiny and criticism that is being thrown in the direction of match officials is getting worse week after week, yet the main culprits don’t seem to be offering any solution to ‘poor’ officiating.

If the game is to entice more people into picking up a whistle and having a go at taking charge of a football match then the constant slack that is thrown at officials needs to stop. Referees are human and just like a central defender or striker might do, they will make mistakes over the course of a season.

If I make a bad call on a pitch then the chances are someone will want to let me know about it and that is a completely natural reaction in such a competitive sport. What use is it, however, to just tell me in no uncertain terms that it was the wrong call? Do you think I will respond better next time after a verbal thrashing of expletives and vile language?

Frankly, to say you think a referee is wrong just because your opinion or view point is different is completely and utterly ridiculous and it is this sort of stick that needs kicking to the curb.

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