By Tony Attwood
A team of Austrian scientists have undertaken a study to find out if swear words have predictable effects on football referee. The work which has been undertaken within the University of Austria has been published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
Fifa’s law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct), section 81 says, “A player who is guilty of using offensive, insulting or abusive language or gestures must be sent off.” The question is, does this happen.
The researchers team began by drawing up a list of 100 swear words before recruiting 13 German-speaking residents of Austria. Each one evaluated the words rating both its degree of insult. The analysis also aimed to see if the swear word concern the person’s power of judgement (such as calling the ref blind), intelligence (calling the ref an idiot), appearance (such as suggesting the ref is overweight), sexual orientation, or personal attributes.
The researchers then went to 113 referees, and put this point to them…
During a stoppage in play, one team’s captain comes up to you and suggests you make a particular ruling. You decline. “Hereupon the team captain says … (the selected swear word) and then walked away. Do you, the referee, respond by issuing (1) a red card or (2) a yellow card or (3) an admonition, or do you (4) do nothing at all?
The referee was asked this for each of the 28 swear words.
The result shows that “Analysing all swear words independent of their offensive nature, it was found that 55.7% of the swear words would have received a red card, although law 12 would have prescribed a red card in all cases.” Only a very few officials would always, automatically, eject the player
The conclusion is that “referees would have issued a red card for sexually inclined words or phrases rather than for terms insulting one’s appearance”.
There is a general point here. Fifa makes millions, maybe billions of pounds of year, and has the job of running the game. It is the arbiter of rules, and has the power within its committees to change the rules. It can also instruct all refs, and most particularly its Fifa refs, to obey a certain rule. Having rules that are not applied simply brings that rule, and by implication all rules, into disrepute.
Worse, because this sort of “ignore these rules, they don’t matter” approach seems to me (as a non-ref) to be widespread, there must be a general growth in confusion among players as to what they can get away with. One week they tell a ref that he’s queer and get away with it, next week they do the same thing, and get sent off. You can see why players get annoyed.
If Fifa were some tin pot little operation just on the make for itself and its own officials then we could understand this “who cares?” attitude. But here we have a universally loved organisation that…
Oh, hang on.
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