A Scottish referee was brutally and violently attacked by a player in a game in Saudi Arabia.
The incident happened in a local derby between two of the KSA’s fiercest rivals Al Hilal and Al Nasr.
Such is the intensity of the rivalry between these two teams that referee John Beaton and his two assistants, Stuart Stevenson and Douglas Ross, were sent to the Middle East after a request from the local association for outside match officials.
In the 67th minute with the score at 1 – 0 the referee red carded Al Hilal’s Mohammad Jahfali.
Everything appeared to be going ok until the final minutes when the game exploded. This was as a result of a second red card to Saud Kalili a team-mate of Jahfali.
As a result of this, midfielder Al Dawsari confronted the ref and a blazing row erupted between the two men. Al Dawsari then threw his head in the direction of the referee and immediately received a red card.
The player had to be restrained by his team mates but did push the ref in the back before being escorted from the field of play.
Saudi Arabia are not the only country to ask for assistance when their respective top teams clash. Egypt is another who require the intervention of outside “neutral” officials.
This is clear and blatant thuggery on an arbitrator (which is what we referees and assistant referees are).
- We are there to arbitrate in a conflict situation.
- We are there to decide on an issue of contention.
- We are there to decide which side or individual is correct and which one is incorrect.
- We are there to ensure that the game is played according to the FIFA Laws of the Game and that the team scoring the greater number of goals wins the game. If not, and an equal number of goals is scored, a draw is declared by the competition rules.
I deliberately did not use the words right or wrong, as this can be subjective. However, there is a correct and an incorrect decision and referees try their level best, given the incidents as they occur in front of them and based on information supplied from their assistants.
This incident, as if it were necessary to bring home the difficulty of being a referee in the modern game, shows how dangerous it can be to be a match official.
It also highlights the need for additional assistance, and not assistants, as we now have at UEFA Champions League and Europa League games, to allow referees and their linesmen, to use an old description, make the correct decisions.
Only this year Bassel Saad admitted to striking father-of-two referee John Bieniewicz aged 44 during a match and pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the US state of Michigan.
Mr. Bieniewicz never regained consciousness after being punched in the head by Mr Saad.
We also remember a very experienced Swedish referee Anders Frisk who retired early after receiving death threats from some people claiming to be Chelsea supporters.
These threats came after Mr Frisk red carded Chelsea’s Didier Drogba in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League against Barcelona.
While these incidents are rare, certainly at the higher level, there is anecdotal evidence that it is happening with more regularity at the lower levels of the sport.
Regardless of what level, it needs to stop, and stop now, otherwise the limited number of qualified match officials will dwindle even further and that can only be detrimental to the game as a whole.
We are regularly reminded that without a ref the game can't proceed. If that is the case, then it’s time for the powers-that-be to take the strongest possible action against the perpetrators of such acts of violence on referees and their assistants.
As someone who has experienced violence and attack at first hand, it is not only disturbing, but also quite frightening.
Unless referees and their assistants can feel confident in their personal security before, during, and after a game, the numbers of men and women-in-black will continue to dwindle and that will spell disaster for the “beautiful game.”