As the headline says, refereeing is a very difficult and unrewarding “profession.” It takes time, effort and money just to have the honor and distinction of being a referee.
Now don’t expect to get any plaudits or compliments from players or fans – not a chance. Well, perhaps that’s not strictly true. You will get the occasional “well done ref” from a team when they win, if you’re lucky.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog asking the question “Who wants to be a referee? Hands up, anyone?” The response was tremendous. Not from prospective referees, but from existing ones who understand what it’s like to go out on a weekend and suffer insults and abuse and run the gauntlet of overzealous parents who think their little Johnny is the next Lionel Messi or Christiano Ronaldo.
Referees are human like everyone else and have feelings. It is not our intention to “ruin a game” as is regularly suggested by some. However, as humans we will make mistakes and should not be crucified for being human.
My problem with referees is when they go on the field, either at a local schoolboy game or a World Cup fixture and allow their emotions to cloud their judgement from doing their job according to the FIFA Laws of the Game.
Jose Mourinho, the current manager of English Premier side Chelsea once said the following: “he was not a referee at that moment, he was a human being.”
He was referring to Premier League referee Howard Webb after the 2012/13 semi-final of the UEFA Champions League between his side Real Madrid and Bayern Munich from Germany.
Mourinho went on to say, “I talked to him (Webb) and he told me he didn’t send the player off because he would not have played in the final.”
Of course we can only take what Mourinho said at face value because neither Howard Webb nor his refereeing association (PGMOL) said anything to the contrary.
I wouldn’t be a big fan of Howard Webb so I wouldn’t let my “biasness” be clouded by suggesting that he did say it.
Webb doesn’t have a good record in this department. Remember the 2010 World Cup final? He issued 14, yes I said fourteen, yellow cards and one red. The red was dished out after the game was over.
He could have had two justifiable red cards in the first half but he bottled it for reasons known only to God and himself. He didn’t do his job that day and came in for stinging criticism as a result, and rightly so.
My problem is with referees who go out onto the field with preconceived ideas and notions. A referee should never allow his personal feelings to influence his judgement. He must act in accordance with the LOTG and decide on an incident that happens in front of him at the time with fairness, transparency and decisiveness.
Law 5 of the LOTG states quite clearly “The referee enforces the Laws of the Game.” “Takes disciplinary action against players guilty of cautionable and sending-off offences” so give him/her a break.
He/she doesn’t have time to think about the consequences of his actions.
He/she doesn’t have a choice when giving a free kick or issuing a mandatory yellow or red card.
He/she has to act on the spur of the moment on what happened in front of him and issue a sanction according to the Laws of the game.
That’s his/her job – period.
Refereeing is not an easy “occupation.”
It’s not a very well paid one either.
It’s not for the feint hearted.
And it’s definitely not a place where you can win friends and influence people.
Nevertheless, those of us who do it, love it. We can’t explain why we do it, but we do it.
My wife says it’s like being in love – like an itching in your heart that you cannot scratch.
That’s about as close to a reason as I can find.
I did it for 25 years on the field and I’m still mentoring referees up to World Cup level and I still have the same passion that I had when I started way back in 1971/72
Would I do it all over again? Damn right I would!