In many ways referees are like policemen. When they are recruited they are asked, even instructed, to carry out their duty in a fair, firm, and unbiased way regardless of who the teams are, or who is playing
Other people make the laws – we apply them. We don’t have a choice in the matter.
In a recent game in the MLS a referee decided, for whatever reason, to flout the FIFA Laws of the Game by awarding a yellow card when the incident required, nay demanded, a red card.
The video of the incident is below:
For clarification purposes I’m going to quote what the “bible” of soccer says under Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct
“A players, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the following seven offences:
- Serious foul play
- Violent conduct
- Spitting at an opponent or any other person
- Denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within his own penalty area)
- Denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick
- Using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
- Receiving a second caution in the same match”
Now to me that’s quite clear and unambiguous.
The numbers above to look at are numbers 4 & 5 where it clearly says a player should be dismissed, sent off, red carded if he commits any of those offences. What part of that is not understood?
The law doesn’t leave much room for doubt.
It doesn’t leave much to ones interpretation.
And it certainly doesn’t say anything about a yellow card.
My big problem is when referees take it on themselves, for whatever reason, to “water down” the law. When they do that they are leaving themselves wide open to criticism from players and team officials alike, especially the cynical ones.
They are bringing unnecessary attention on themselves and in particular their performance.
I’ve also heard of referees in some way feeling sorry for a particular team because they are being beaten by a big margin.
I’ve heard of referees not wanting to heap more misery on a club because they are perhaps on the verge of relegation.
That’s not our problem what state a team/club is in and we cannot be seen to be assisting them in any way. It’s not our job to have any consideration for these factors when officiating. It’s not our job to feel sorry for anyone.
It’s our job to referee according to the Laws of the Game as laid down by FIFA and at all times to be impartial and apply the law fairly, transparently, and objectively.
To my colleagues out there I say this – if you are feeling any of the emotions described above then you are in the wrong game.
If you cannot do the job given to you as prescribed by the FIFA Laws of the Game then get out and take up some other less stressful activity.
You are bringing the name of refereeing and referees in general into disrepute and leaving us all wide open to unfair criticism.
Heaven knows the job is difficult enough without that
About the author: Dr Errol Sweeney (PhD) BBA Dip.PM, aka “The Hanging Judge,” is a former L.o.I and SA Premier League Referee, World Cup Referee & Assistant Referee Coach & Mentor. He coached/mentored a referee to 2 World Cups, Olympic Games, Confederations Cup, 2 U/17 FIFA World Cups and 4 African Nations Cups. He also writes on his own blog at SuperSport.