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By Walter Broeckx
I usually watch my games with the sound of the commentators as soft as possible. This is mostly because I’m not interested in what they are saying. When I am in the Emirates I also have nobody that is telling me what is going on and how many years it is since we didn’t win anything. The bad thing is however that I miss the atmosphere in the stadium. So I have to find the balance so I can get a bit of the atmosphere and don’t really understand what the match reporters are telling me. So it is always a big relieve for me when I can catch a stream and have match commentators who speak French, German, Spanish, Romanian or Swahili. Then I can enjoy the atmosphere in the stadium and most of the time the people are more of the praising kind to Arsenal (if I can understand them).
But when I am watching the game on my local sports channel on TV I do try to listen a bit to what they say. And I do reruns of the games (like for the ref reviews but also for the fun of it) and then I sometimes try to listen to what they say. Because on my local sports channel we have all kind of different leagues that we can follow. We have the Belgium league of course. The French league, the Spanish league, the Italian league, the Bundesliga, the Dutch league and the Premier league. And as the reporters are always from a country that is not directly involved in the league they most of the time have a fresh view on things and their bias is not blatant at all. Except the drooling over Barcelona maybe….
That is if I can count correct 7 different leagues that I can see as much as I like. And it also has a benefit so you can see the differences between the leagues and the way refs are doing their games. And there is a difference when you see how the refs are doing their games.
In the Bundesliga, the Italian and the Spanish league I think you have a rather high standard in refereeing. By this I mean that in general the refs are very much aware of their task in protecting not just the rules but also the players. Now I must say that this is not based on any statistical ground. It is just a feeling that you get when watching the games.
Because as a reviewer of the refs on this site I get to see a lot of games and then you can almost predict what the ref will allow or not. And sometimes they surprise you but this can go in both ways in fact. Sometimes they suddenly punish a tackle that they don’t punish before and sometimes they let things go that in any other country would be called a foul and punished with a red card. In the 3 leagues I mentioned the refs are stricter in the applications of the laws and the dishing out of cards.
The only exception seems to be the games between Barcelona and Real Madrid. But I think no ref wants to do those games anymore in Spain as these are no longer football games but a combination of kickboxing, football, rugby, Australian football, cage fighting and Shakespeare. This goes for the diving part of the games. No professional Shakespeare actor can fall to the floor as most of those players can.
But you also have a strange thing with the match commentators in my country. One of our readers told me that when watching an Arsenal game with Mexican commentators she was amazed by how many times the match reporters called for a foul and then had to say: not given by the ref. And I must say that this is something I also have noticed.
Now those match reporters are familiar with all those leagues. Some are more specialised in the EPL but in general you get them to do all kinds of games in all those leagues. Now part of being a good match commentator is being able to spot things as they happen. Or even before they happen. Reminds me of the fact of one match commentator we had in Belgium who whenever a goal chance presented itself was shouting “goal” even before the shot was really taken to then shout “oh nooooo”. Anyway many match commentators act like some kind of ref calling the fouls when they see them.
And it really is amazing that those experienced match commentators are calling many fouls when they see them and they have to follow up with saying: oh, but the ref doesn’t give it. No I am not saying that this never happens in the other leagues but the difference is that in those games they hardly say it as in the EPL they say it a few times each game.
I know of course that match commentators can make mistakes but it is obvious that if they would make the same mistakes over and over again they would make it in all the leagues they cover. But as I hardly notice it in those games and I usually listen to them with the sound turned on in those games to know who is who as I don’t know the players that well from all the teams in those leagues. But the fact I don’t hear this in those games is something that makes you think.
It can’t be the match commentators who suddenly know nothing. It can’t be the rules because the rules are the same worldwide. So this leaves us with the only possible explanation that it has to be the standard of the refs in the different leagues.
The EPL is one of the best leagues in the world but for some reason the referees are not really up to the high and required standard like in the rest of Europe. The fact that the FA don’t allow openly criticism of the refs is regrettable. I really believe that the only way that humanity has progressed is by being critical and open for criticism. Because when you don’t allow people to question the system you get the impression after a while that all is well and fine. Even when it isn’t well and fine.
The only way to go forward is to be open. Open to the refs but most certainly open to the public and the teams. If the FA and the PGMO would openly admit the errors made by refs it would be a signal to the people that they accept that mistakes are made. And if refs are punished for their mistakes in an open way, just as the players are openly punished when they get a suspension for a red card. Knowing that when a ref made a terrible wrong call and that he gets punished by doing a game in the first division for a weekend it doesn’t make up for the mistake but it gives you a feeling that somewhat justice is done with the ref himself.
And most of all, wouldn’t it make refs more aware of the fact that if they mess up they will be exposed and nobody really likes being exposed as not having done a proper job. So imagine that refs would try to improve themselves to avoid such thing. Well I would try to avoid such a thing. Maybe the refs in the EPL would want to avoid such things.
It also would shut the door a bit more to possible refs trying to influence the game with blatant mistakes. Because then those mistakes will not be brushed under the carpet but will be exposed in broad daylight.
And maybe our match commentators will no longer see and feel the difference between refs in the EPL and in the Bundesliga or Spanish or Italian leagues.
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