OFFICIALS & INTIMIDATION…………………………Don McMahon
As you may know I was an official in the NASL and we had our share of attempted intimidation and confrontation with some pretty nasty specimens (manager, players, owners etc.) whose unique approach to Football was to bitch at the referee or assistants in order to try and hair dry them a bit a la Fergie.
As a rule, we ignored them, unless they became profane (often), aggressive (far too often) or downright obnoxious and ignorant (way too often). In that case we were not necessarily obliged to report them (unless there had been threatened or real physical contact, an overt or covert threat to attack us, or spit at us, violent conduct etc.)
What we usually agreed to do as a team before the game began (and we knew the managers very well already) was to turn our backs (literally and figuratively) to them and to continue with business as usual.
However if it became too irritating or persistent, the referee would often say, ‘ no benefit of the doubt lads/ladies for this or that team’; meaning apply the LAWS strictly (a rarity among officials) without any latitude whatsoever.
This translated into a debatable offside call being a 100% offside or not, as the case may be….whichever affected the moaning manager’s team. The message SOON got through and the undesired behaviour usually stopped shortly thereafter.
We were not disadvantaging either team by our decisions, just applying the LAWS more strictly than usual. The players hated this and soon beseeched the manager to calm down. When in the middle, I would always have a quiet word with the captain and advise him that his manager’s attitude was hurting his team, without being too specific. Professional players knew what I meant and this protected me from accusations of bias or unlawful behaviour while helping the players to help me.
Officials hate to be molested and harassed by anyone, regardless of who they are and what title they hold; we already have very competent assessors to tell us where we made mistakes or did something very well, and we usually know ourselves quite well and our failings. I know of NO official who dreams of making a bad call…..we all hope and pray to make that great call (advantage, penalty, a wise word versus a card, preventing an injury, allowing a great goal to proceed, etc.). That is what we train and work to achieve and if anyone knows differently then they aren’t watching Football!
Pardew is rather foolish to have never learnt this. I see Wenger getting angry on occasion when a call goes against Arsenal or a failure to call a serious foul hurts us (literally or metaphorically). But I have never seen him try and intimidate an official and when he says I cannot make a judgement about an incident because I didn’t see it, what he is really saying is that he is never well placed or skilled enough to judge an official’s decision based on what he saw versus the much better placed officials.
As anyone can tell you, nobody on the field of play can call an offside correctly except the assistant and the referee in tandem. A referee without the assistant is almost 90% certain to not get it right, that’s why they have assistants. Unless a player has 4 sets of eyes, one set on the sideline and the other aligned to the attacking player(s), then it is technically impossible for them to make that call as well.
Even supporters who are directly in line with the offending player(s) cannot make that call because they usually lack the assistant’s skill in watching two events at once, the pass or kick forward, the movement of all potentially offside players and the involvements of said players in the play.
I have been an assistant where the referee (a FIFA one no less), gave offside 3 times despite me not indicating offside! He made me look the fool, I got abused by the crowd, the manager of the offending team was ultra-pissed at me, and to make matters worse, the manager of the visiting team was arguing with the referee throughout the game.
When the FIFA assessor sat down with us after the game, he commended me for getting all offside calls correct and ripped into the referee for failing to trust me and making me look bad. FIFA being FIFA, I never got another international game, but at least I knew that I had done my job. The same assessor later told me that the fact I had been naive enough to believe doing my job would protect me was reason enough for me not to be assigned further internationals.
It all boils down to the fact that, as human beings, and well trained professionals, officials in the EPL have to deal, not only with the fallout from their games but the intense pressure and fear every EPL encounter can engender. Add to that the mysterious PGMOL machinations AND the hell hath no fury outrage of some managers (Fergie being a classic case) then intimidation becomes a very real prospect for any officials. It is a miracle that some manage to do a decent job despite all this ancillary crap!
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