Referee’s need help or do they?

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?

2 thoughts on “Referee’s need help or do they?

  1. Really interesting topic Trev. My background as a player was rugby rather than football, and even ignoring the difference in the way it uses technology, (far far far far superior to the way football does), the common sense approach is a far more trusted method of managing a game, (where the downside of failing to manage a game is 30 blokes throwing multiple punches rather than 22 blokes pushing eachother a little). My favourite (Rugby Union) ref has been Nigel Owens, (Welshman), and it’s not strange at all to say that I have a favourite ref because quite simply the difference he made to the games he ref’d as a spectacle, was quite simply astonishing, (when you compared him to other refs about at the same time who seemed to spend all their Saturday Afternoons blowing their whistle.

    His key was good communication. It had nothing to do with getting decisions right. It’s honestly completely secondary. If he got something wrong, (and it’s often quite obvious when you have got something big wrong), then he just used to say something along the likes of “Sorry lad, I missed that, I’ll try and do better next time, so stop punching eachother and cut me a but of slack eh!” It’s pretty hard to continue to feel aggrieved after that because someone has just taken ownership of the error. It’s finished. It’s time to move on.

    The other thing was the respect shown to refs. We had to call them “Sir” and I remember seeing ref’s give penalties. (free-kicks in football), for players who swore at eachother. You just didn’t complain to the ref about anything, and if you did he would just award another penalty 10m further up the pitch. I remember back in the day Barnet FC tried something similar on a voluntary basis where only the captain, (Yaks), would speak to refs. (I personally think this was an attempt to try and keep Michael Leary on the pitch more, but I would have preferred him on the pitch less, but that’s another story). I think cleaning up the language is a no-brainer in football and it really shouldn’t be too hard to do. MICing up ref’s would improve the game from the viewers position enormously. Why did he do that? What is going on? Why is it such a secret? Football wants our money, but only wants to include is in part of the performance.

    I saw your RT’s of the ref’s from lower down who had been praised yesterday and I think the way that ref’s are managed and moulded is part of the problem. They are so busy thinking about what they should be doing, that they forget that they can do. Just talk to players. I saw footage of the Eastleigh player who was sent off techincally for striking the ref recently. The ref approached the player, got in his way and put his hand out to obstruct the player and the player barely made contact with his hand. It was ridiculous. It’s 1 thing showing the players who is boss, (when it’s needed), but that was a nothing situation, (already over), that was escalated by the ref! ESCALATED BY THE REF! I can’t just imagine his thought process now. He touched me. He blood touched me. How dare he! I’ll show him. That is honestly how it appeared and if that was to happen lower down I can seriously see that vey quickly developing into a more serious situation. All caused by the ref.

    They are not allowed to speak to the cameras after the game and every decision, (right or wrong), is shrouded in secrecy. Just be honest. The issue with refs isn’t making mistakes. The issue is not explaining decisions. The issue is basically poor communication. It really should be quite easy to fix, but the powers at be don’t seem to want to fix it and I don’t really understand why.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am amazed at how many coaching teams sit in the dugout and constantly berate referees and assistants. I’ve seen sides leaving 4-1 and the manager is still accusing the referee of bias….. I can’t imagine why anyone wants to put themselves into the line of fire!!


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