Referee’s, their assistants and the whole man or woman in black or whatever colour they like to wear these days has always been a contentious issue. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t but why does it appear that while the game has moved on tremendously those in control of the game on the pitch appear to be lagging behind?
My late dad was a referee at County League kind of level in the 60’s and when I played youth football in the late 80’s he took it up again then for a few years before hanging up his whistle. Whilst playing I also served on a junior league committee and of course there were reports of abandoned games and incidents where referee’s had suffered not just verbal abuse, thankfully though not too often.
Granted the latter were few and far between and we haven’t seen that happen in regular occurrences in the non-league game. But it never made me want to pick up a whistle and join that side of the game and it still doesn’t now.
As I stated above the game has moved on with its millions but those needing control on the pitch seem to have been left behind to find their own way to be better. It’s hard to watch when you see other sports finding ways to eradicate mistakes.
After all we’re all human and there is a margin for error that simulation can take away. Cricket and tennis both used video to get decisions right that the naked eye wasn’t able to decipher, rugby miked up their referee’s to explain decisions and also used video evidence to back themselves up and the NFL have forever used the same rugby method.
All sport is worth money and it’s too much to get these decisions wrong in today’s technological age. You can argue though that these sports aren’t as fast paced as our beautiful game and that’s where VAR became a chore within the game. This season it has been more refined but still throws up the odd borderline decision which means the system still needs a revision.
But what of the men and women still in the thick of the action? There appears to be quite a difference in quality as you move up to the National League itself. Now these officials have all progressed through the leagues below and only yesterday I was re-tweeting from a couple of people how good their referee was on Saturday afternoon, refreshing to see.
On the flip side of that coin was in the National League itself where once again decisions didn’t go the way they maybe should have done. This season I’ve seen games from the National League down to Step 7 and the better ones are definitely underneath the top division, but is it because they’re stifled in the way they referee and also run the line?
How much feedback do they get on their performance, good or bad? The fact they know the days they’re being assessed is wrong, I know back in the day you didn’t know until they popped their head round the door of the changing room after the game, that’s how it should be.
One gripe of mine is the way they are treated by players in the top flight, mike them up and no game would be shown before the 9pm watershed! That filters down all the way to the bottom with these players being role models, you don’t see a single rugby nor NFL player going to berate a match official so why should it be happening in our game?
Maybe if that respect was there, if referee’s were allowed to control the game with a degree of common sense then we wouldn’t see so many social media posts saying another one has had a shocker. One referee I know well at County League level was pushed around a couple of weeks back, thankfully there was no bad damage inflicted on him but at a time when there is a shortage of the men and women in black the game should be doing more for them, not burying their heads in the sand and bumbling along.
I know some people reading will say respect works both ways and I agree it does, the game at all levels is worth money to all and these decisions need to be right and they should be provided with all the tools to get a decent performance out, not too much to ask is it?