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There’s something rotten at the heart of refereeing

I am not a religious man, and indeed all I ask from those who are religious is that they leave me alone. If they don’t tell me how to run my life, I’ll quite happily let them get on with their own.

Yet I try to be respectful of others’ beliefs no matter what I think of them. Which is why I find it strange that the head of refereeing in Scotland can apparently (at least according to lots of news reports) send out an email from his own official Scottish FA email address with a cartoon about the pope which members of the Catholic faith would find offensive. The man might well have the view that the activity of certain priests and some bishops over the matter of child sex abuse is a disgrace that needs all the publicity it can get, (and indeed I’d agree with that – not that that makes any odds) but it seems weird that he should use his official email (and by implication his position) to send out such an email.

Especially at a time when the refs in Scotland are thinking of going on strike (although by the time you read this, they might have changed their mind). They are thinking of striking because they feel they are under too much pressure – and yes when it comes to threats against the safety of your family, that is way beyond the acceptable amount of pressure that anyone should ever have to take as a result of their job.

As I understand it the SFA provide the referees to the Scots Premier League, and the SFA is in fact a conglomeration of the top clubs in Scotland. So it is a bit of a circle as it is the officials of the top clubs in Scotland who are criticising the refs (although presumably not actually threatening to send the boys round to do the family over).

I am English, and come from an English heritage, and so don’t have a natural understanding of all things Scottish, but from my English perspective what leaps out at me in relation to Scottish football is how it still has sectarianism running through it. It is not just that some teams are Catholic based and some Protestant, but there seems to me (from my position way south of the border) that there is a genuine and strong belief among Celtic supporters that their team is being endlessly done down in the league by Protestant refs and a Protestant organisation. Part of the starting point of all this is the fact that Celtic manager Neil Lennon faces two SFA charges over his criticism of match officials plus a touchline ban.

It seems to me what we are seeing is an utter breakdown in the fundamentals of the footballing system in Scotland.

And much of it is made worse by the fact that the Scottish FA have been trotting around the leagues in Norway, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Wales and probably a few other locations too, trying to find some strike breakers. Not the most clever approach, it seems to me.

The Scottish FA said it had offered “the promise of tougher and more immediate sanctions on players and club officials who abuse referees and match officials, and especially those who challenge their integrity and honesty. These new guidelines also incorporated a ban on all club officials commenting on referees in the build-up to matches and in the immediate aftermath.”

Having heard the strike is still on, the SFA said, “the weekend of action will proceed as planned and the Scottish FA will implement, where possible, a contingency plan to allow some fixtures to take place as planned this weekend, using officials from other international associations.”

Apparently the Dutch FA had expressed willingness to break the strike at first, but now they have backed out. Gijs de Jong, the KNVB’s competition manager, said: “When we heard there were death treats, we pulled out.”

Meanwhile as we all saw on TV, Real Mad players deliberately got themselves sent off for timewasting in the Champs League game. It is a good job the match was not in the EPL, because if it had been, what with the refs’ reluctance to take any action whatsoever about time wasting, the match would still be going on and we would still be waiting for the goal kick and free kick to be taken.

Real Mad certainly brought the game into disrepute, as did Uefa by having regulations that allow that abuse of the system, as do English refs by not taking action against time wasting no matter how extreme, as do the SFA by trotting around trying to find strike breakers, as does anyone in Scotland who does anything that allows sectarianism to continue.

It’s all a bit naff, so here’s a film to watch. If you click on it I get a penny or two, and that helps keep paying for this site and the History site that goes with it. Give it a click.

6 comments to There’s something rotten at the heart of refereeing

  • Menace

    The FA have a habit of having a go at Managers for comment or action after reports in the media. They do that without any introspection of their organisation or officials. The provocative nature of decisions on the pitch seem to be ignored and the Laws of football are once again deposited into the rubbish bin. There is no advantage in allowing the fouling team a goal.

    The fact that a referee decides to ignore the blatant handball; not carry out the requisite actions according to the Laws of the Game; award a free kick and caution the player that has grabbed the ball in an unsporting action; decides to play advantage is absolutely disgraceful. The fact that handball has to be deliberate does not mean automatic caution but definitely means a free kick unless advantage will result in a goal scoring opportunity.

    Referees in England are exalted by the FA and stupidly allowed to make decisions that can easily result in crowd violence. The decisions by referees who cannot count to two and those by referees who cannot see should not be condoned but punished by bans.

    The interpretation of the Laws sometimes leave logic further than the planets. The shielding of the ball must be accompanied with the ‘deemed to have been touched’ philosophy otherwise it is obstruction. The time wasting at free kicks and by goalkeepers, the use of towels to wipe the ball, the ‘conversation’ by the referees with players and restart with a whistle are all areas that need to be addressed and ruled on so that consistency can be maintained.

    The use of the additional officials that were the result of 4 not being enough and adding ‘more on’ was a solution. The solution of the ‘more on’ seems exactly that. They do nothing to enhance the game as they ignore what is going on in front of them.

    There are other areas that need to be addressed and many of these are bordering on the R word (r a c i s m) in the way they are propagated. The way that some managers and players are penalised for actions that others get away with on a regular basis. It is a travesty that blatant violent fouls by known criminals are ignored and simple physical contact is referred to as unsporting conduct.

    The FA and UEFA are dead organisations as they do not regulate themselves nor do they progress with the sport and technology. They are organisations only focused in financial gain for their officials with no consideration for the game for which they are responsible. They are ready to be put into administration and docked points.

  • Interesting you put religion in whole story, and in a way, there is more connection than you mentioned. Referee decisions are dogmas, which cant be recalled or discussed on the pitch (of course there are examples, as Rio Ferdinand in game Manure – Totts). But in greater majority they are baptized and their decisions are holy. On the other side FA behave as Inquisition which will prosecute and burn every one who don’t believe in their decision. UEFA is something like Holy Chair, and even they admit there are sometime crimes, they close their eyes on Real Conquistadors “childish mistakes” which came from “good intentions”.

    Talking about Scots, hm in a way I can even understand what is going on because here in Bosnia we have same or worse situation. Here things goes such far that if game is played between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs team, referees has to be Bosnian Croats, and so on… sometime Religion can be best umbrella for all kinds of rains.

  • Maverick

    Hi All,

    Tony could you do an article about Sp*rs and them apparently getting their new 56,000 sater stadium plans approved by none other than the dithering Boris Johnson. its apparently gonna cost 450m if not more……….i just cannot believe they are gonna do this, not even Chelsea with Abramovich’s money can afford a new stadium so i dont know how they are gonna manage this especially with good ol Arrys penchant to spend what a club doesn’t have (see portsmouth etc) and stay in contention for ANYTHING. and to be honest i didnt feel that Sp*rs (not saying this because they are our rivals) had enough fans or world wide support to pull in money or decent revenue at all.i dont see how they are gonna fill that stadium week in and week out because spuds dont seemingly have enough of a following especially for overseas etc…i just cant see how this will be done without it bankrupting the club or “doing an arsenal” for many years…especially in these financially uncertain times…….i think it is madness on their part look at what has happened to Arsenal whilst moving and they definitely do not have a Manager like Wenger to guide them through the whole process……could this be the beginning of the end for spuds and will this finally show others how much of a good job Wenger has done!! (Spurs aint even guaranteed CL each year to pay for most things miles too inconsistant)

  • nicolas

    About the Real madrid game, I feel that tactically it just was brilliantly played and that it would be actually very incorrect if UEFA will give extra bans in inclusion for the extra yellow cards, because the rules are for everyone. The obvious alternative to get extra cards could be extra tackles, which are even worst. In inclusion Real was 4-0 up and had been in the driver’s seat all of the game so the time wasting didn’t have any real impact to that game. The only thing for me was that Mourinho denied it to be an tactical decision was just stupid and in a way ” 100% pure Mourinho”. But I must admit that he is probably one of the most gifted managers in the modern game.

  • Shard

    Regarding the Real Madrid yellow cards. It’s not enough that rules are followed in letter but in spirit and that definitely is not in the spirit of the game. However, UEFA have no right to moralise on upholding the spirit of the game. I don’t believe there can be sanctions because as many have pointed out, here and elsewhere, the alternative would simply be to tackle recklessly. However, to praise Mourinho for such ‘tactics’ is simply nauseating, and I think sadly reflective of the world we live in.

  • RedGooner

    That is an article and a half.
    Not sure if any of you ever watched the documentary flutes faith and football.
    Celtic Rangers is the football
    Faith obviously the Religion part
    Flutes the bands pipes whistles etc and the marches
    Some good stuff from the supporters of both sides.

    Its not a subject that could be covered here its pure madness on both sides.