The refs’ double standards, the difficulties, the hidden things and the human side of it all. By Walter Broeckx
I already have written a few pieces on some double standards that were used in some Arsenal games the last weeks. Both against Sunderland and Chelsea the Arsenal players were allowed half of the physical challenge compared to the opposition.
It was for my eyes clear to see and I saw it after some 15 minutes and knew it for sure after half an hour. You cannot tell it by one decision but it takes a number of “mistakes” so see it and to know there is a system in it.
I can tell you that if you want to change a match as a ref, or better have influence on the game, you have to do it in a way that it doesn’t catch the eye. The way Mike Dean does it in games with MU is clear to see, if you are not a United fan that is. In recent weeks we have seen it in the way to do it: by constantly bending the rules for one side and not for the other. It works in many ways for the team you want to help.
The other team feels there is something wrong but they cannot change it and thus get frustrated. So that team will begin to try to match the physical challenge and you then just give a foul each time and… the frustration grows even bigger.
If you are lucky some players go mad and you can send them off. It was the ref who started it but if the players cross the border then no one can argue with the refs decision to send someone off the field.
Because the players get frustrated their concentration levels drop. They are more worried about the ref and forget how to play football and so they have a double handicap. Not able to battle back with the same means but also losing their own foot balling abilities. So you win anyhow.
But there are some hidden things that only refs know and which put on pressure that is given in a subtle way. One example comes with the seeding of some teams.
Refs know then that the higher authorities would like those teams to go through to a next round. And it are those same authorities that appoint the refs for the games so if they are happy that team X wins the game they are happy with the ref and will give him more games as he has shown a “reliable” ref.
In the country I live it is known to the refs in the highest league will not to give penalty’s against a certain team. Only when there is no other option, let’s say a player makes a save with his hands on the goal line, then you can give the penalty and it won’t harm your career.
Everybody knows it , and everybody keeps the mouth shut because it can harm your career if you come out with it in the open.
There is also something else that nobody ever speaks about but which could make a big difference. Refs in the PL are mostly in the age of between 27 and 45 years. And most of the refs are married. Now suppose your wife is also a football fan and she supports a certain team, called X. So you have to do a game of team X and you know that if you come home after the game and if team X would have been defeated, and then imagine it was the refs fault, would you feel comfortable in refereeing that game?
Well my wife doesn’t know anything about football and she has no team she likes so no problem for me but I can bet that there are other wives out there who do follow a team. You could risk sleeping a few days on the carpet next to your bed for a few days.
But then comes the most human side of it all. Suppose you have kids. And they are very proud of their father who can blow games with United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and so on. But almost every kid that follows football has a favourite team. Lets called it team Y. And so you go off to a game leaving you family and your kid wearing the shirt of team Y when you leave them. You know that he will burst in to tears if team Y loses its game. You cannot imagine that team Y would lose because you make a mistake. I am a father so I know the last thing I want to do is to make my kids sad. I ask you, how can a ref blow a game with team Y in a fair way? You cannot or you should have a ice cold heart hidden somewhere in your chest.
The fact that all refs have their own favourite team is the least worry in fact. I have done games with my local team and I can tell you they haven’t been happy with all of my decisions. But to make your kids unhappy…. you have to be ice cold.
So how can you avoid these things ? Simple: by taking the refs out of control of the country’s FA. In the highest leagues you should only have refs that come from other countries. The chance that they have difficulties like I said with wives and kids are very small. You would have after a few years a level in refereeing that applies in whole Europe and more consistency.
But I bet a few dollars that the FA won’t let this slip out of their hands. Why ? The answer is clear for those who want to see it. The influence a local FA can have on their refs would disappear and this is the last thing they want.
Walter Broeckx (c) Untold Arsenal 2009
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