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November 2021
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By Don McMahon


I recently read Walter’s excellent post about player injuries and the link to officials’ failure to apply the Laws properly. The gist of this message is very clear, even to the AAA 3 blind mice squad members:


1)Allowing serious foul play from one team to go unpunished while punishing their opponents very severely is unjust, harmful to all other teams and ruins Football while advantaging some clubs over others, and is a sign of cowardice because cowards lack fairness. Similarly allowing serious foul play to happen between teams is even more cowardly.


2)It is to Football’s advantage and all participants, to be properly protected from the Orcs and other knuckle-draggers in amateur and professional Football. Any official that is afraid to punish serious foul play for whatever reason is a coward.


3)Since kids tend to imitate their heroes when playing Football, seeing great technically gifted players being scythed down by brutal neanderthals has two negative effects. It discourages a talented kid from being ¨too fancy¨, otherwise he’ll get kicked Out of the park too AND it encourages the neophyte Neanderthals out there to try the brutal approach since it will be condoned under the ¨that’s British Football¨ meme. Thuis, official who tolerate this are allowing youth to learn evil ways, always a sign of a coward who ignores kids needs.


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4)Such rash fouling ends careers that should have been great but were cut short or seriously compromised by recurring injury from brutal Football. Only a coward would permit such things to occur under their aegis.


5) Since ignoring serious foul play for whatever reason  is the sign of a coward among other things, and since officials CANNOT be cowards and remain decent referees, then cowardice is the first step to corruption and openness to corruption the first step down a very slippery slope.


6) The Laws are VERY clear about stopping serious foul play for the following equally serious reasons. Failure to do so results in the officials eventually ceding control of the match to the beasts. Failure to sanction such fouling invites retribution from angry players, thus raising the temperature of the match and increasing control issues. Such failure permits the players to bring the game into disrepute and to soil the name of the Beautiful Game by changing it into the Brutal Game.


7) A cowardly referee or assistant can’t make the tough decisions and avoids the ¨moment of truth¨ events that define an official. If an official fails to sanction a serious foul, will he or she also tend to allow an offside goal or turn a blind eye to other infringements of the Laws.


8) A cowardly official contributes significantly to the general feeling that ALL referees are either incompetent, bent, stupid or cowards and that they won’t do a thing to protect the players or maintain high standards in the Game.


Why do I insist on calling such officials cowards? They are also many other things but the fact that they back down from making the tough but necessary decision is due to a lack of backbone, since it CANNOT just be because they are out of shape and too far away from the play, nor that they need glasses, since officials must display sufficient vision both day and night, especially professional referees, or because they don’t know the Laws, since every official has to pass a strict training regime to become a referee, or because they lack experience, because even a beginning referee can identify serious fouls, or for any other reason one can imagine.

I have seen, from bitter personal experience,at all levels of the game,  officials whose cowardice permitted them to:  award a very questionable penalty, in order to avoid being abused by home fans, unjustifiably send off a player because they wanted to ¨even the odds¨,  allow an illegal goal because they were afraid of the attacking team’s ¨reputation¨, pretend they didn’t ¨see¨ a serious foul that injured a player because they were intimidated by that team’s manager, award numerous offsides while ignoring their assistants flags, because they were afraid of being embarrassed, etc. These men and women were at all levels of officiating, from the neophyte junior referee to FIFA officials I worked with.  Cowardice in Football is not just the preserve of the AAA whiners, the media and RVP. However its most pernicious essence is shown by officials who fail to do their core job because they fail to have the backbone to risk censure or abuse, regardless of their fears or concerns. As one old-timer told me, a referee is only as good as his or her worst game…and I hoped that even my worst one was sufficient to get the job done.


  • Pete

    Thanks Don. Clear as day… so why are our elite officials cowards…?

  • jambug


    They are cowards because they are too weak willed to apply the laws as they should be applied according to the rules. Rules which are, believe it or not, intended to protect players from serious injury.

    They are cowards because they allow themselves to be dictated to by the ‘Neanderthal’ mind set of the prevailing media ‘line’ that is ok to kick talented, skilful footballers, especially if they are in a red and white shirt by the way, whenever they like. And anyone who questions such thuggery is merely a whinging foreign wimp.


    And why we are talking about cowards.

    In my lowly footballing career I played on the wing, until injury curtailed any speed I did posses, then full back.

    By far and away the toughest position. The position I needed most ‘courage’ for, was on the wing.

    It doesn’t take an ounce of bravery to see a tricky winger giving you a hard time and then deciding to ‘get in his face’ ‘let him know your there’ ‘give him a dig’ ‘take him out’ or whatever Metaphor you want to use for fouling the guy.

    It does take bravery however to keep demanding the ball, to keep charging down the wing, to keep trying to put the ball over, or play that killer ball, when you know damn well that there’s a 15 stone thug bearing down on you with dubious intent.

    I know from personal experience who the cowards are it isn’t the artisans of our game, it’s the thugs !!

  • Micheal Ram

    A new word requested for entry in dictionary.

    Stoked – an injury or harm substained by football players caused by a direct result of evil intended opponents and failure by referees or officials to act upon it.

    Eg – Arsenal FC were severely harmed in their quest to win the EPL for several years because of the number of stoked players in the their already depleted squad.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    A person’s performance in a match as in life is defined by his/her character. Anyone can make the Carragheresque sideways pass, the useless run into the corner, or the safe but wrong call. It takes character to try to beat the 18 stone CB, knowing that his 20 stone partner is coming blindside. It takes character to attempt the difficult, killer pass, knowing failure will result in criticism. It takes character to make a match defining call when you fear for your very safety or career as a result.

    Good article, Don.

  • Gord

    Thanks Don.

    I would imagine it is warmer there (most anywhere Arsenal fans are) than here. -32C with a wind, feels like -40C today. Not a day for wearing shorts outside.


  • sperez

    Spouting excuses instead of taking responsibility is also the sign of a coward. Especially when this happens every single year.