It is rare that I post such a sad and choleric post on UA’s generally positive website, but the news of a referee’s death from a punch recieved during a youth Football match in the US has triggered my rancour, anger and disgust at what is happening more and more in Football circles. Here is the url for the article about this poor man and his grieving family:
First, let me be clear, I am a retired professional referee and still do the occasional youth game for the enjoyment and pleasure it can give me, so I am most definitely writing from a neutral perspective. I was going to say for the kicks as well but that seemed inappropriate and insensitive given the nature of this post.
What I truly want UA readers to understand is that a tragedy like this is ENTIRELY avoidable but the needed solutions have NEVER been addressed adequately by the authorities, governors and stakeholders in Football, for the following reasons:
1) It is my opinion, supported by facts, that game officials are seen, more and more, by spectators, parents, some players and even managers and coaches, as the villians, when things don’t go right with their respective plans for a match. Being dismissed from a match, having a penalty awarded against you, suffering the occasional missed and erroneous calls has become sufficient justification to abuse and intimidate the match official(s) by all and sundry.
There is NO Law, either civil or sporting, which either tolerates, permits or encourages such abuse, intimidation or confrontation, yet we see it endlesslty in both amateur and professional circles….with the added opinion that its ONLY ¨human¨ to do so! Was it human to kill a referee for having the nerve to show the criminal a yellow card?
2) Despite the veneer of ¨respect¨ and ¨tolerance¨ that football governing bodies constantly vomit at Football’s participants, when SAF rants and sputters his obscene apopletic seizures at an unfortunate official, it is all accepted as being Fergie’s Scottish nature and managerial nous that permits him to be ¨unique¨ and ¨charmingly¨ rural during a match. We then see Barca and other teams’ players surrounding the referee and berating him or her in a vein attempt to ¨reason¨with them.
Why don’t we just provide bullhorns toon-field players? They can blast their criticisms at the official to ensure that he or she does take notice. Fifa, Uefa, the respective FA’s and amateur football administration need to grow a pair and start really punishing such mobbing behaviour. A referee’s person is sacrosanct and in many other sports having any contact, whether violent or passive, is strictly forbidden….but not in football.
3) When I was officiating actively, our Provincial Referee’s Association, came very close (on at least 2 occasions) to going on strike after repeated violence against their members. We were reassured that the victims would be protected and that the perpetrators AND their Clubs would be ¨severly¨ dealt with by the FA. The victimized officials had reported the assualts to the city police who had opened up an investigation.
Our esteemed provincial FA decided that a 3 game suspension in each case (there were 4 assualts in one month- I think the moon was full the entire month) was sufficient , despite 2 officials having their noses broken and 2 others being repeatedly spit on and kicked in the back by the cowards.
What really peeved us was the provincial FA’s threat to suspend, for life, any official refusing to continue refereeing regardless of the inherent dangers. As for the police, they refused to continue with the investigations, citing the supposed legal precidents for assualts on participants during a sports venue. We later learned that the FA had contacted the constabulary and told them they were not going to pursue the perpetrators because they had been ¨disciplined¨sufficiently by the discipline board.
4) The unfortunate Mr.Portillo had already been injured (broken leg among other things) by Football thug players in his 8 years as a referee but apparently such assualts are ¨part of the game¨ or so we are told! Two of my colleagues went as far as pressing criminal charges as private citizens and both were told by the judges that they were ¨loathe¨to interfere in the sports disciplining process as that was ¨different and apart¨ from the ordinary civil protections everyone is entitled to (except officials during ,before or after a match!).
One official, who was also a lawyer, asked the judge if he would have agreed to hear the case had the exact same thing happened between two people just outside the soccer grounds, in a public place. the judge said that he would have been ¨obliged¨ to hear the case IF police had prosecuted the attacker. So if you’re on the field you have to rely solely on the Football authorities but if you change and walk on the street you can rely on English common Law or Napoleonic as the case may be.
After all this ranting, I simply wish that our bloggers will spread the word to all and sundry in our Footballing community;
YOU CANNOT HAVE FOOTBALL WITHOUT PLAYERS, COACHES and OFFICIALS, AND PLAYERS, COACHES and OFFICIALS,CANNOT HAVE FOOTBALL WITHOUT SECURITY AND RESPECT…..for the good of the game, lets get this message out worldwide, please!
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The sites from the same team…
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- The Arsenal History Blog from the AISA Arsenal History Society