I try very hard not to pinpoint referees when finding reason for defeat; after all, I don’t want to become Arsene Wenger. I’m also one of those irritating people who attempt to stick up for the odd missed penalty decision here and there because it’s become virtually impossible for one man to spot every action of 22 professionals who are being trained to con, exploit and gain advantage. That said, what I simply can not defend is the absolutely preposterous rulebook they follow and the sheer fact that they are willing to go along with it. It is time for this nonsense to stop.
All too often it feels like a referee can hide behind ‘the letter of the law’ and if anything, that’s making it much easier for an official to duck key decisions and not use their own initiative. There are a number of laws they follow which just make no sense whatsoever and have been manifested through years of governing bodies sticking their noses in trying to prevent the inevitable. Whether they like it or not, football is a passionate game meaning players will always act with passion and not restraint.
Yesterday afternoon I witnessed a fifteen year old kid scoring a 20 yard screamer on his full senior debut against one of the top teams in our division (League One). Jordan Ibe has already been linked with the kind of clubs who can promise the world, suggesting that this guy is going places. Having scored the goal he runs towards the Wycombe Wanderers dugout and hugs his family just a foot away from where the substitutes are sat. He didn’t jump over the rail, he didn’t incite any supporters, he simply wanted to share a special moment with those who obviously supported him through his development. Without even an apologetic smile, the referee booked him for his troubles.
You can spend as much money on youth development as you like, but if you’re going to stifle a player’s enjoyment of the game like that at 15 then what chance have we really got? This is one of the up and coming talents of the game and we’re sapping the fun out of playing football before he’s even old enough to take home the man of the match champagne. And when he gets snapped up by Liverpool or Manchester City to play in their reserves for four years he’ll get systemised to answer all press questions with the same monotone answers and play football in the ’sensible’ way to get ahead in the game.
That is perhaps a whole other argument, but going back to yesterday’s actions how have we let it get to the point where a referee HAS to do that. We’ve seen it before at Wycombe, in the 2001 cup run which saw Wycombe legend Steve Brown sent off for taking his shirt off to reveal a message to his sick child, after a 90th minute winner in the quarter final of the FA Cup. Both incidents are utterly pathetic and a sign that if UEFA had it there way, referees would just be robotic machines capable of holding a few cards.
Instead of turning them into robots how about helping them with a few more technological advances and letting them dictate the game in the way they wish? Take away these ridiculous quirks to our game, like an injured player having to leave the field after treatment and get in some officials who understand football and appreciate when a player might be trying to take advantage of a situation. Give them the power to run it their way, using their own common sense so that they don’t have to hide behind directives and rule numbers. Provide them the right equipment to allow them to make decisions themselves.
The argument of consistency would be gone because clubs would appreciate that every referee is different. It would become another pawn in the game to alter tactics around. Whatever the circumstances, it would hopefully at least eradicate total crap like the decision taken yesterday afternoon which if anything incited the crowd more than any goal celebration could have. Explain that one UEFA.
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