I have said it many times in the past, and at the risk of being boring, I’m going to say it again. I don’t criticize referees for what they ARE doing, I criticize them for what they ARE NOT doing.
I know how difficult the job is. I know how dangerous it can be too having had my life threatened on more than a few occasions.
I’ve been involved in this game for over 40 years, both on and off the field, and the one thing I have always tried to achieve was consistency. I know, I can hear you already. “No two incidents are the same.” “Each situation is different.” And so on, and so on, and so on…
That may be true. However, there are times when I’m left scratching my head and wondering if the referee or the assistant referees are at the same game as I am.
If the game is on television the match officials don’t have the benefit of slow motion action replays from several different angles, but their inconsistencies, when it comes to making decisions on very similar incidents, still leave me baffled.
For example, there is a general consensus among the men-in-black that any two-footed tackle should receive the ultimate sanction – red card. This is where a player launches himself at an opponent with both feet off the ground.
In last weekend’s EPL game between Chelsea and Manchester United, Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United tackled Eden Hazard of Chelsea. Referee Phil Dowd had no hesitation in pulling out the red card. Vidic was astonished. Personally, I thought it was a red card and I applauded the ref for being courageous in his decision making.
However, towards the end of the game the United full back Rafael performed a two footed tackle on Gary Cahill of Chelsea and only received a caution (yellow card). This to me is indicative with what is wrong with the game today.
If the tackle by Vidic warranted a red card then the one committed by Rafael warranted two red cards. In my opinion, Mr. Dowd “chickened out” because he had already dismissed one Man United player and didn’t want to dismiss a second one. That is refereeing cowardice as well as being inconsistent.
Phil Dowd is not an inexperienced official. He’s been around the top flight of refereeing since 2001. He refereed the FA Cup final in 2012, the FA Community Shield in 2011, and the Football League Cup final in 2010.
However, his two crucial decisions in the aforementioned game left a lot to be desired.
The second incident “featured” another referee, Martin Atkinson.
Mr. Atkinson had charge of the Swansea v. Tottenham Hotspurs game at the Liberty stadium in Swansea.
Atkinson is younger than Dowd but nevertheless a very experienced official.
In this game, he was clearly in view of a deliberate pushing in the penalty area by Spurs Michael Dawson on Wilfred Bony of Swansea.
Mr. Atkinson cannot credibly say that he didn’t see it as, with the benefit of television, he was clearly in view of this incident which should have resulted in a penalty to the home team. Why didn’t he award the penalty? Only he knows that.
There have, in the past, been accusations levelled at referees regarding their alleged bias toward certain teams. On the face of it, and anecdotally, there would appear to be some foundation for at least some of those allegations.
This is unwanted publicity that refereeing can do without.
Match officials need to be, at all times, above reproach. They need to be seen as fair and unbiased. Unfortunately, in some instances, that would appear not to be the case.
As mentioned earlier, refereeing is a difficult task. We go out and try to do the best we can and to be fair to both teams. I have said that we shouldn’t be called referees, we should be called reactionaries. That’s what we are – reactionaries. We see a situation and we react. If someone handles the ball, we react with a direct free kick.
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression – “he was a good ref, we didn’t notice him.” Well you didn’t notice him because the players behaved themselves. It’s as simple as that.
The bottom line is we bring the criticism on ourselves by our inability or unwillingness to make the decisions that need to be made regardless of who they are against.
As I’ve said in a previous blog – do your job and to hell with consequences and maybe we can regain the respect that we truly deserve.