Today’s Sponsor: “Making the Arsenal” – just so you can realise what it was like in the really bad times.
by Walter Broeckx
Introducing video evidence without delaying the game.
As you know I don’t spare my criticism when I see bad referee decisions. I always try to do this by explaining it with the rule book. I also try to see if the ref could have done better and even try to see if there are circumstances which could lead to the conclusion that the ref could not see it. I know the difficulties that you can face as a ref – like players that can block your view or just the fact that the human eye can fail at times.
But every coin has two sides and now I just would like to concentrate on the other side of the coin. Being a ref is not the easiest thing in the world. Just as I think that most players come on the field to play the game in good spirit and within the rules and with fair play I also believe that most refs come on the field to do their game as neutral as can be. If you manage as a ref to be neutral in your game you have already succeeded for a big part. So in this article I would like to ask to start with keeping in mind that we speak of refs who want to do the job in the right way.
Apart from the fact that not all refs come on the field with this intention it is also a fact that many players come on the field and will do all and everything to win the game. If this means they have to cheat for this they will do it. If this means they have to influence the ref and his assistants they will do so. It is those players that make life difficult for the ref.
What things do I mean and how could we stop them? And how can we stop this without interrupting the flow of the game?
An action seen on many fields involves players who letting it be known by gestures that the ref and/or his assistant really know nothing about football. How many times do you see when an assistant gives an offside the attacker making gestures with his hand to make sure the fans know that he had it all wrong?
And yes it could well be that the assistant made a mistake. But when we look at replays we find that most of the time the assistant was right. But because of the player on the field letting everyone know that the assistant made a mistake this undermines the credibility of the assistant. Because the fans rather would believe their players and not the assistant. So I would say: ban those gestures. In fact these gestures are to be seen as an accusation of the ref or his assistant for doing it wrong. Now we live in a free world and we have the right to accuse other people if we think they done us wrong. But if, based on clear evidence, we can see that the accusations were wrong then we also should be able to punish the persons who accused the ref falsely.
Yesterday I was looking at the cup final in Germany and the assistant gave an offside decision against Robben. A replay showed that the assistant was correct but it was a close call. Arjen Robben was off course convinced he was on side and he waved his arm high in the air in the direction of the linesman to let the fans in the stadium know that the assistant was wrong. Now the presenter on the German TV praised the linesman for his decision so the fans at home knew he did a great job. But the people in the stadium don’t know this and they rather believe their own player and not the linesman. By making these gestures Robben undermines the authority of that assistant in the stadium and we should try to avoid those things. Respecting the decision of the ref and his assistants should be part of football players’ mentality.
I can hear some people think this would get the emotion out of the game and yes you are right. So I don’t suggest to give a yellow card for every gesture a player makes in those cases. No only if the gesture can be looked upon as unacceptable the ref on the field should take action. It would be much better that a committee should look at the images and if the assistant was correct and the players gesture was wrong he should get a yellow card behind his name.
The same thing should be the case when the ref gives a foul and a players makes the “no” gesture or when he shakes his head in some kind of disbelief. I think everyone knows what I mean, and if you don’t just look at most of the games and you can see many examples of it. So again the ref on the field should not take action. Yes again we leave it up to the committee that looks at the incident and if the player was right, no action should be taken but if the ref was right and the gestures were out of place we give that player another yellow card.
So this would mean that players on the field will think twice before making gestures that undermine the credibility of the ref. The ref is facing a difficult task and if the players make it more difficult by cheating or making gestures we must punish them when the cheating is clear to see or when the gestures are out of place.
At first players will not stop their behaviour. It will be after a few weeks when they suddenly see that they get a lot of yellow cards and face a suspension that they will start to think about their acts on the field. The final result will be that the gestures will stop and this will make the task of the ref more simple. He doesn’t have to react to the gestures, unless really out of order, and he knows that the players will be punished if they accuse the refs false.
So yes players still can express their emotions. They can do this as much as they want. But they know that trying to influence the ref can turn against their team and themselves after the game.
The flow of the game stays the same as in the game it will have no influence.
And most of all after a few weeks or months we will see coming an end to all the gesturing towards the officials and players will think twice before they try to influence the ref because that is their main goal. By making those gestures they want to put doubt in the refs mind and hope that when the next situation comes up the ref will look at it like the players want him to look at it. A ref with doubt in his mind is a ref that is starting to lose control and once the players are taking over the ref has lost his game.
Another benefit will be that youth players also don’t see those bad examples anymore on the field and they will not try to copy that behaviour when they play. Believe me if you see football at lower level or with the youth teams you will see how much they copy the behaviour of the superstars in the game.
And if you ask me who should be in such a committee, then I would suggest two ex-referee’s, two ex players from the PFA union and one judge who should be specialised in sports. Let us play the game with respect for both sides from both sides and let us stop with all the gesturing and cheating on the field.
Final note: after writing this article I saw that Arsenal has won the fair play league this season and I must say that it is something that makes me proud of my team.
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