By Walter Broeckx
Following up on the excellent article from Proudkev I want to show you how things are done in a country that has a real divide in it and how they do take notice of spreading referees on a fair way for everyone.
As you may know I come from the country known as Belgium (which doesn’t have a good name lately but hey…) What many people don’t know about Belgium is that in fact we are a much divided country. I’m not going too much into local politics but during the 70s and 80s our country was becoming uncontrollable for any government. The reason was the fact that we have two (in fact 3 but I will keep it simple) official languages and both sets of politicians had different interests. All trying to favour their own region of the country.
So they split Belgium up in 3 communities (Flemish – Walloon – German speaking part) with each having their own parliament and government and on top of that we still have a national government and parliament. Complicated? Yes but don’t worry this is Belgium and nothing is easy. The only thing people in Belgium really unite about are the red devils, the national football team and only now when they are successful. Because when they were rubbish just a few years ago nobody went to see them and they played in front of not even half filled stadiums. Even going to smaller grounds with capacities of around 15.000 still couldn’t hide the big gaps in the stands.
But let me come to the real point I want to make: referees in Belgium.
Because of the fact that each part of the country is quick to find themselves “discriminated” against (and I use this word with caution) by the other part of the country this also applies very much to football and for the supporters.
I still remember when my local team (Berchem Sport) then in the first division had a captain who was only a part timer. Our local boy (lived around the corner from where I lived) was a plumber in his daily job. And he could hardly speak French as he had gone to a technical school where French was the least of their worries. But when being captain he complained on more than one occasion that he had to go in to the dressing room of the referee before the match to sign the papers and then as was usual in those days referees would give a short set of instructions to the captains. But when we had a French referee he hardly could understand what he was talking about. Leading to misunderstandings on more than one occasion when he couldn’t brief the instructions to his teammates. Leading to frustration with supporters and … well you get the picture: difficult to please everyone because of the language barrier.
So how is the Belgian FA (KBVB) making sure that all the teams in each part of the country will feel that there is no difference between both parts?
Well the first thing they do is that for a league with 16 teams they have 21 referees. 21! Twenty one!!! We have 8 matches each weekend and we have 21 referees. In the PL we have 10 matches and we have 15 referees if all are fit more or less. So you will not see the same refs over and over and over and over again as we have in the PL. Because in Belgium they know that sending the ref too much for the same teams might lead to trouble after a while.
But when we have a look at the way the referees are selected from the different parts of the country we see that the Belgian FA tries to do this in a fair way for both parts.
In Belgium we have around 60% of the people who speak Dutch (Flemish), 40% speak French and we also have a very small minority of around 0.7 % who speak German.
So from those 21 refs we have 7 Fifa refs. 3 Speak Flemish and 4 speak French. From the other non-fifa refs we have 8 who speak Flemish and 6 who speak French. And if we put all of them together we have 11 refs from the Flemish part of the country and 10 from the Walloon part of the country.
If we put that in percentage terms we get some 52% Flemish speaking refs and 48% French speaking refs. Not really completely in line with what we should get if we would divide it strictly but that is also the norm for everything in Belgium so we are already happy to have more than 50% of the refs who speak Flemish. It used to be completely different some 30-40 years ago.
But looking at those numbers it shows that the Belgian FA is trying to do their best to make sure that all parts of the country get their fair share of referees and that nobody has to feel discriminated against. They try to keep the balance between the different parts of the country as balanced as can be. And there is no difference between the way the laws on the field are interpreted by the refs from the different parts of the country. They all get the same instructions and explanations.
A balance that is completely missing if we look at the referees who do the PL matches. As has been shown before no refs from a part of the country that has around one third of the population in England is somehow very strange and bizarre. I wonder what would be said if people in that third of the country would have a green skin…. Would this be ignored then as it is now?
Football organisations should be alert to any possible discrimination and now it looks as if people from the London area and the South of England are not taken seriously by the people who have the power in the referee land of football. In my country our FA is doing all they can to make sure nobody has to feel discriminated against and is doing a rather good job (still plenty points to criticise them for the rest though…). So why can’t the English FA, the PGMO and the PL look in to this possible discrimination of referees from London and the South of England?
- 10 December 1932: Arsenal 4 Chelsea 1, the West Stand (costing £45,000) opened by Prince of Wales (although it had been used by the public for several games before this). This game was part of a 20 match sequence in which Arsenal lost 2, drew 2 and won 16.
- 10 December 2006: Chelsea 1 Arsenal 1 – the first meeting after Cole’s acrimonious transfer. Cole is quoted as saying, “It’s never been about money. For me it is about respect”.
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