Referee abuse has to stop. Plain and simple. Coaches and players complaining about the way the referees call the game is nothing new. In fact, something would seem just a little bit off if they weren’t doing it. But in the last two or three years (and 2015 especially) it almost appeared as if there was a directive stating that referee abuse needed to be ramped up to new heights. And it’s not just players, coaches and fans: most of the soccer media have jumped on the anti-referee bandwagon writing piece after piece about this referee not being good enough or that decision being wrong, etc (my personal favorite is every commentator saying every send off is “harsh”). It has to stop.
The problem starts in youth leagues. Players, coaches and parents all want to win. When things don’t go their way the referees usually take the brunt of whatever went wrong. Players are told by coaches and their parents (at a more alarming rate than ever) that it’s not their fault they lost, it’s the referee’s fault because of a penalty that was or wasn’t given or any number of contentious decisions that happen during the course of a game. So, when they don’t get the calls they want they start mouthing off to the referee. Eventually everybody starts to do it over and over again until it snowballs out of control. Until corrective action is taken, the problem will only continue to get worse.
A generation of kids who have gone unpunished for years for dissent is now showing in Major League Soccer. Not only does every single player have something to say about every single, but there are now more managers in MLS who used to be those players who questioned every single call. Guys like Peter Vermes, Ben Olsen and Jay Heaps are chief among them. It’s gotten so bad that during the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs one ESPN personality wondered on Twitter when did it become the rule for every single player to argue every single call.
Luckily enough there is a solution to this problem. To clamp down on dissent on referee abuse referees at all levels must start giving out cautions like candy, for lack of a better expression. How often do we see the referee being swarmed when a player is sent off? Every time. This is where the referees need assistance from whatever league they’re working in. Leagues everywhere need to start handing out more and longer punishments for this sort of thing.
And finally, the number of touchline outbursts from managers is getting obnoxiously high. Managers are going to complain, but they need to save it for their post-game press conferences. The number of times that the managers run up to the fourth official or assistant referee is unacceptable(the aforementioned Vermes being among one of the worst offenders). To deal with this, it once again falls to whatever league to protect their referees and take action. Very rarely are coaches dismissed but to stamp this out that’s what need to happens. Send a message to all involved: if you aren’t going to respect the referees, you no longer get to be a part of the game.