By Walter Broeckx
Part one of this serie can be found over here
I just wanted to give my view on a few things that I noticed while reviewing the referees this season. And on some misunderstandings that are being told during games by match commentators or pundits after the games.
3. Referee or game flow manager
Keeping the game flowing; in some places this seems to be the ultimate bench mark of a good referee. I beg to differ. Because a referee is not foremost a person who has to make sure the games is flowing. No that is the task of the players.
If players play within the rules there is no need to stop the game for fouls and the game will flow. I still remember a game from last season where the ref had only made one foul decision in a half and this was because both teams played in a fair way. They didn’t commit fouls so the game flowed and kept on flowing.
A referee should in fact not focus on keeping the game flowing. He should focus on what is his first job: to make sure the teams don’t mess around with the laws of the games. So if a foul occurs he has in fact no real option to call the foul and stop the game at that moment.
I can understand some of you saying: and what if he plays an advantage. Yes this is an exception where a ref can decide that it is better for the team that is suffering from the foul to not stop the game but to let the game continue. I will come back to this later on in a next point.
For some reasons we see a lot of referees not give fouls when they should be given. I think they are afraid to be criticised about not letting the game flow. As I have said before: if the players don’t commit fouls the game will flow. So a ref cannot really be said to be the reason for the game not flowing. He can only punish what is happening. So if players, managers, spectators want to see the game flowing there is only one solution: don’t commit fouls.
And if you do we have to accept that the flow will stop at that moment. It is very simple in fact.
But some referees seem to be afraid to stop the game even when it is really important to do so. For example when a defender is fouled in his own penalty area and the defending team keep the ball but are under pressure. All too many times I see refs letting the game flow at that time but a foul on a defender should be punished and certainly when they keep the ball but are under pressure. This has nothing to do with keeping the game flowing. This is playing a dangerous game against the defending team.
Another poor example of keeping the game flowing was seen recently when I reviewed the Aston Villa – Reading game. The ref in this game was so busy in trying to keep the game flowing that you could see the irritation growing bigger and bigger with both sets of players at times. At one moment you could see 3 -4 the same fouls being done in less than a minute and then when the 4th time the same foul was made the ref finally gave a foul. Leading to all kinds of players being irritated because of the different treatment they got.
Now a ref could say: I wanted to keep the game flowing and gave them an advantage. And so I end up with my final remark for now: advantage or not?
4. Advantage or possession, the big thin line
As my previous example showed I have seen too many refs let the game continue when a defender is fouled and giving the advantage signal. Tell me how can a defending team gain any advantage when one of their defenders is being fouled and on the ground, another defender gets the ball and has to hurry a clearance that goes out of play or ends up with the attacking team? And all too many times I see this happening.
The defending team has no advantage at all. An advantage would be: being able to reorganise themselves and move the ball from the danger area to the other side of the field without being under pressure. That would be an advantage. But in order to “keep the game flowing” referees let the foul go and don’t do what they should do. I could give you names of refs who do this on too many occasions but I will hold this back for later. But if you read this Mike, yes you are one of them.
And a really stupid example of bad advantage was seen in the game Norwich – Sunderland. A Norwich players jumps in the back of a Sunderland player, the ball goes to another Sunderland player in midfield. The ref signals advantage, the ball is played forward and the assistant raises his flag for a Sunderland player in an offside position. The ref still holding his hands to signal the advantage he gave then blew his whistle and gave a foul against Sunderland for offside.
And all this happened in about 1 second.
So at the end of the day the team that was fouled first didn’t get any advantage at all and the fouling team got the advantage. Now I know you can’t come back after 10 or 15 seconds, but this happened in what we could call a fraction of a second.
This really was a poor example on the advantage rule. The advantage rules is there to give an advantage to the team that was fouled. So when the advantage is lost immediately the ref should come back to the initial foul.
But I had the impression that all this was the result of the ref being too focused on keeping the game flowing and as a result you give bad advantages.
Refs should be more aware of the fact that the first thing they should do is to make sure the laws of the game are applied. And once that is done they can focus also on other things like keeping the game flowing. But the first thing on any ref his mind should be: is this a foul or not. Never mind the flow of the game.
Please refs read your instructions again and follow them because I see too many cases where you are more flow managers than refs.
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