The Referee

After a disappointing result this weekend I tried to take my mind of football by watching a sport which is very unfamiliar to me… rugby.


I am not a big fan of rugby as I think it consists of men just running into each other with the ball acting as a distraction; however I think my disdain for rugby comes from the false pretence that rugby is the sport of the gentlemen. This weekend I witnessed someone intentionally try to concuss someone, a punch thrown and a player grab an opposition players genitals. Chivalrous indeed.


Anyway I digress, I was interested in how they are not really allowed to speak to referees and how that is lauded as a positive thing, I’m just not so sure. In the case of the genitalia grope, the victim of this was the experienced Wales player Alun Wyn Jones. In an interview after the game he states,

“My question is, it’s difficult as a captain these days because you can’t speak to a referee about anything”

Surely this isn’t a good thing. I understand that footballers’ constantly berating officials is not a good look but surely we can find some type of happy medium where you can speak to officials, but with respect.


Italy v Wales - RBS Six Nations
Weirdly the same haircut Iain “Yano” Campbell had when I signed for Forfar in 2012

As a teacher we are constantly trying to build positive relationships with the kids we teach, the parents and anybody we work with. It creates a more positive environment which gets the best from everybody; furthermore the kid will be more willing to be understanding when one of my fantastically planned lessons doesn’t quite go to plan. Why can’t this approach be used by referees to players and vice versa? It is something I seek to do and I applaud the referees who do use this approach.


Against Forfar last week we had a referee who I have had several times before and we have built up some rapport. Earlier on in the game during a stoppage in play, he jokingly threatened to write my perfectly good goal down as an own goal if I didn’t give him peace and we were able to share a laugh. Later on in the game, he made a honking decision in which he booked me for what I felt was a fair tackle. I was not pleased about it but I am more understanding as I know he is a respectful and fair individual. I may have reacted differently, perhaps more defensively to a referee with a less human approach.


What frustrates players are the referees who cut about the pitch like a Victorian headmaster chasing after naughty schoolboys, refusing to explain any decision. The type of referee that makes you come to him when he is giving you a booking, with an antagonistic approach only adding fuel to the fire in a desperate bid to assert his authority. This type of referee loves the power that comes with the whistle, Specsavers uniform and Copa Mundials that appear to be tattooed to every referee’s feet. This isn’t good for anyone. It creates more shouting, more squabbling, less football, less flow to the game and gives everyone involved a sour taste in their mouths.


Of course, you will get the odd player who just hates referees full stop but the majority of players want a referee who builds relationships, can explain their decisions and can give a bit back. It may not be the same south of the border, having read up on the Dan Gosling and Jon Moss (referee) incident. However, the majority of players I’ve played with would suggest this is absolutely pathetic from Gosling. Dan Gosling would have been calling Jon Moss every name under the sun and goes running to the media because Jon Moss gave a bit back. It is very similar to those fans who hurl abuse at a player and when that player finally stands up for himself and says something back, they suddenly go all precious and play the victim.


Grow up Dan

I’m also not sure the refereeing is as bad as some make out, fans and fellow players will tell you it has digressed over the years. Yes there are several howlers, but there have always been howlers, if you came and watched me you’d also see some howling touches. Almost every game is now videoed across the professional leagues so every mistake is there for all to see, this never used to be the case. Referees and players will make mistakes but as long as the best efforts and intentions are there I can forgive that. My worry is not the referees but the appeals panel. Please check out the recent James Keating’s dive tribunal affair, but hey, that’s a discussion for another day.

Referees are human, it may sound obvious, but some people still don’t get it. We had former referee Des Roache on our podcast and he was articulate, charming and funny which weirdly surprised people. I also listened to Bobby Madden’s interview with Si Ferry and Mike Dean’s interview with Peter Crouch – they both came across well. They seemed like characters that would have patter with you, explain their decisions and respect the players – this may be one of the reasons why they have had good careers. Referees deserve respect but I’m not sure they deserve the lofty pedestal in which rugby union put them upon.

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