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The not so simple life of a referee

The not so simple life of a referee, by Walter Broeckx

How many times do we wonder how is it possible that the blind c*nt in the middle didn’t see that? I must confess that being in the stadium or behind my television I curse that blind man in the middle a lot. In the heat of the game we all have our opinion and our own thoughts. But later after the game when the nerves have settled down I can analyze the decisions made by the ref with more common sense.

The problem with being a referee is that you have one angle on a situation and that, in the Emirates, the other 60.000 all have another angle and opinion. As a ref you have got a split second to look at the situation and to make a decision. I can tell you that it isn’t that simple.

I must admit that sometimes after the match, when you analyze yourself in the dressing room, you sometimes come to the conclusion: Oh my God, how wrong was I in that situation. The ref who says he never had such a feeling is someone who doesn’t care about his own performance.

Yes we screw up but I can say that in most of the situations there is no intent. As they say: sh*t happens, and yes I admit we, refs make mistakes. In the leagues where we do our games there is almost no money at stake. But even then tempers can rise.

But mostly when you say to a player after (or even during) a game and tell them honestly: sorry I couldn’t see that handball because the guy was between my eyes and the ball, players usually accept it. You can only see it once and sometimes the angle you are looking from can be misleading.

Off course things change when we are talking about the PL or the CL. Big money is at stake and the ultimate goal should be that everything is done correctly.  As a ref I am in favour of the use of video or any other goal line technology that is available. Wouldn’t It be nice if when we go home we all know that win or lose, everything was fair ?

The first rule should be that what the ref on the field decides is the right decision unless the video clearly shows something else. Did the ball cross the line or not? The ref thinks it didn’t and when there is no proof of the contrary then it isn’t a goal.

Managers should be allowed to ask 2 reviews during a game.  But only major events should be available for review: a goal, a penalty, ball over the goal line or not. It would be asked a lot to review a simple foul in the middle of the pitch. One could also give a punishment to the team that asks a review and is proven to be wrong.

Here’s an example:  If a goal is given and a team asks to review it and everything is as the ref said, , then it could be the team that has scored that gets the ball back. So managers wouldn’t risk of reviewing a clear goal when there is nothing wrong.

The people who are against the use of those “help lines” say that it takes time. Yes it takes some time to sort those things out.  But how much time is lost by endless discussions by teams surrounding referees trying to change his decision.  Indeed you can keep track of how long the review has taken and then add this time to the extra time.

Can we leave the review to one person? No I don’t think we can. In my view we should have two (possibly ex-) referees sitting in a box where the review takes place. Both could give their opinion on a computer by just touching a yes or no button with the simple question: does the ruling on the field stand? Very smart people will ask me now: and what if they disagree…. Well then the ruling on the field stands and is considered correct.

Another contra argument is that this is going to give less authority to a ref whose decision is changed by a review. Well actually I’m convinced it wouldn’t.  Because the people in the stadium know that even when the ref missed it, he is human after all, the truth comes out and therefore a mistake by a ref is not as bad as it is today. By showing the human factor, the spectators would, in my opinion, more easily forgive a decision that is wrong.

It would cost some money.  The extra refs and the equipment has to be paid for by the clubs, and so ultimately by us supporters, but then again it really would make me sick that one day I would come to the Emirates, see a bad decision which costs us points and then come home and see on my television that in the first replay you can clearly see that it was a bad decision and could have been reviewed and corrected.

So yes bring on the video evidence so we can all go home satisfied in the knowing that things ended in an honest way.

PS:  Whether you agree or disagree with me is no problem but please play the ball and not the man.  Yellow and red cards can be awarded by the ref.

15 comments to The not so simple life of a referee

  • IndianGooner

    Walter, Good article.

    I especially like the ‘2 reviews’ per manager idea. Similar ideas are being followed successfully in tennis. But the main worry for this or any other assitance is the fans’s anger/booing for the referee if the referee’s decision is overruled.

  • steww

    I too thought of tennis after reading this excellent piece. Not because the dynamic of the sport is in any way similar but because of the difference it has made to the atmosphere on the court. The players simply get on with it. They trust the technology. Imagine if footballers stopped being so irate and got on with the game.
    If something was unclear then no change to the referee’s decision is the obvious answer. It would undermine those managers who always blame the referee as they would swiftly lose their appeals with no benefit to their team.

  • Chrissie

    I agree, video evidence should be used, there is no reason why not, after all it has been used in ice-hockey for as long as I can remember. It is only ever used when the referee is in doubt, i.e. whether the puck had crossed the line or not. It doesn’t take long, less than 20 seconds for the decision last time I watched. Players accept the referees decision because there is no point in arguing. Wouldn’t it be nice not having to see an angry mob chasing the referee. I think it would change the face of football for the better.
    Great article, Walter.

  • James

    agreed a ref’s job is hard thats why they really need to include video evidence – i mean crick/rugby use it so why the hell dont we use it in footy- it’d make sense – it’d stop teams winning unfairly

  • nicky

    Oh for the good old school days when the footer ref was treated like the cricket umpire…..not a word or glance out of place. They were both human and could make an honest mistake. But dream on, those days are long gone and the men in charge of all sports are now fair game….only it’s no longer FAIR and no longer a GAME.

  • pig

    great ideas walter.

    on the face of it, it seems ridiculous in this day and age that some kind of tecnical support isn’t available for refs and managers.

    the vid ref in rugby is connected to the refs earpiece, it takes seconds, and those decisions normally involve a mass of bodies on or around the touchline with the ball underneath them.

    i also think that the ref, when his decision is questioned on the pitch, as boruc did on wednesday, can speak to the vid refs and ask for clarification himself. the technology is quick enough for replays, the clarification would be received before the players had picked themselses up. any extra time wasted can be added to injury time.

    Also, whatever rule changes are implemented by the ruling bodies soon get absorbed into the game. the players, refs and managers will soon adapt and it will be like it ever was.

    obviously though, this isnt going to stop bad decisions completely, its just that the buck will be passed to two hidden people in a dark room.

    i dont think money is a problem, most of the technology can be supplied by the broadcasters who have bought the rights to the match. i am assuming here that all the matches concerned are televised somewhere.

    it wont stop cheating /. diving either, the players will adapt, they will know where the eyes are. just like shirt pulling has adapted.

  • MOMONEY

    This is how they do it in the NFL (American FOotball). That is a sport where there is time after each play to review- and my feeling is that it has already pretty much ruined the game. The sport has become more about rules and rules regarding the enforcement of the rules and how the video shoud work, and how players should continue playing after the whistle in case it goes to video review… In short I do not think its the right way to go about it in real Football. Maybe only Penalty and Goal decisions can be reviews? Including offsides in that would significantly change the game and Im not for it…

  • MOMONEY

    Unless of course there could be some technology that does it on the spot. A sort of mechanical third official of sorts… To me thats the best choice

  • prick

    I think we don’t need video reviews. It would take some of the drama out of the game. We do enjoy a fair match, but we do enjoy the drama too. Football isn’t just about technicality. It’s also about emotion and passion.

    In my opinion, if we switch to video technology, we will regret later.

  • Adam Smith

    Surely, if the forth official is in radio contact with the ref,he should have a monitor and within the time it takes to argue a decision a few quick instant replays would give a more exact judgement on a debatable incident.

  • walter

    Well it would change the game as we know it for a long time. I see a lot to American Footbal to and I never saw players attacking a ref like you see in football. Players just accept it and everybode seems to accept the calls made in the review box.
    It sould be clear that only result changing items can be reviewed.

    Prick, what you say about the drama is true off course. But I think the first time a call from the ref is overruled it would be drama as well you know.
    So I really do think that the drama could change, but there will be still drama.

    If you, like me, go out your bed at 6 in the morning and come back from the Emirates round midnight, I can tell you that I would hate it to see that my money was wasted on some wrong decision of the ref.

    A good example is the Celtic game. If Celtic would have asked a review and the 2 refs in the box would have overruled the ref then Eduardo would have got a yellow cart and Celtic would have got the ball. There would be no fuss, no storm, no nothing at all. It would be drama for us at first because the penalty didn’t stand but we would have won it anyway.
    And I can tell you that the goal from Eboue was the first goal that made me “really” happy on wednesdaynight. The cheers in our living room when Eduardo cooly burried the penalty kick was not of the same intensity as normally when we score our first goal.
    Must say that I am an Arsenal fan in the first place, but as a ref I really hate those things (the main reason why I really hate a player like Ronaldo… If I would be in charge of a game with him he would be off the pitch within 10 minutes) because what the players do on TV, is coming back at us referees all over the world.

    I could go on for hours about those things, in Dutch we call this “beroepsmisvorming” and I don’t know the English word but you could say : talking about your job for hours and hours (although it is not my job, just a nice hobby) 😉

  • walter

    And if there is one thing you cant accuse me of, is that I speak for my own benefit.
    The games I take charge in are not the one on TV so for me it would change nothing. I still would be out on my own or with my 2 linesman to make the calls.
    And my (our) decision(s) is (are) “always correct”. 😉 … NOT

    See what I mean, can’t stop on those things…

  • prick

    thanks walter. I see your point. The eduardo goal leaves a bad taste in mouth. I am now FOR video assist.

    Off-topic: I really like how the Dutch can shorten ‘talking about your jo for hours and hours’ into 1 single word 🙂

  • LRV

    Great article Walter. I completely agree that technology can be of the greatest assistance in this matter. Anything to remove that overflogged statement – “Afterall Referees are human.” I am tired of hearing it. If humans can’t get it right and technology can’t be used to help them, then let’s just employ monkeys and be done with it. At least then we know what they are.

    You also have to realise though that, whether we agree or not, some officials will be reluctant to accept technology simply because it may be a little difficult for them to cheat as much and whenever they want.

  • walter

    A very good point LRV. If the review would be used a ref couldn’t cheat anymore as he can now. Because as a ref you can make a big influence on the game.
    I have been invited to blow on a youth tournament tomorow by the president of the Arsenal Benelux club. So if I would be a not so honest referee I could make it like that that his team wins the tournament just to please him. Off course this is only possible if his team is on equal terms with the opposition because if the other teams score 10 times there is nothing a ref could do. But if 0-0 in the last minute I could easely give them a helping hand if I would.
    Blow a penalty, not seeing a blatant offside…
    But with the review technologie it would make it rather impossible.