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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

The real Respect campaign

In a sense the modest one match ban and fine handed out to Arsene and Samir after being reported by Swiss referee Massimo Busacca for being nasty to him in the tunnel after the 2nd leg of the CL game against Barcelona is a pyrrhic victory. Especially considering that Wenger subsequently described Uefa as an 'arrogant dictatorship` an offence that might have brought punishment itself but for which no action will be taken. Reportedly Busacca was the more aggressive party but Uefa claimed that it wasn`t possible to take any action against him. Retaliation, when on the pitch, is usually seen as the greater crime by referees but they live under strange laws for which respect must be accorded them even if they are clearly total clowns.

As a principle that has to be right but in practice it allows moderately skilled and modestly trained people to become so full of their own self importance that they lose sight of their need to respect the game that pays their salaries and expenses. Too often the impression given is that the game is there to pander to their egos when the best interests of the game are served the more anonymous they are.

Peter Hill-Wood described Uefa as 'difficult people to deal with` and they certainly have their heads firmly buried in the turf when it comes to looking at ways of improving the officiating of games. Where other sports have been open to changes, such as the limited review system in cricket, which has successfully been shown to have significantly improved the decisions umpires have made, and in the process has earned greater respect for those making the decisions, footballs governing bodies have resolutely refused to embrace any such modernisation. There may be good reasons for banning snoods though little to stop shirt designers incorporating them as all-in-ones but such decisions just furthers the impression that they are overly concerned with the minutiae of the game and not those that will improve the growing sense of injustice that many teams experience due to poor officiating.

Complaints about refereeing performances are growing with even people like Tony Pulis who, though he has benefited enormously from a benevolent view of their physical style, has called for a system of promotion and relegation for referees, though the ones he would want relegated may not conform to popular opinion outside of Stoke. Prozone is a computer system that monitors on field activity in a variety of ways which is chiefly used as a coaching and tactical tool for managers and coaches to assess team and individual player performances. It also gathers a great deal of information about referees but the Premier League refuses to publish any information that would subject officials to public scrutiny. So the technology to measure refereeing standards exists but the authorities are unwilling to publish any data that might be collated by others to show whether officials` decision making is getting better, worse or not changing at all.

There is a suspicion that such information is being gathered and used but by betting syndicates who naturally would want to keep such data to themselves. One such independent appraisal in the public domain is being carried out by the folk over at Untold Arsenal and it`s of a standard high enough to warrant serious consideration. Serious enough to have been picked up by the BBC and commended by Professor David Forrest from the Salford Business School who specialises in the study of the sports and gambling industries. Their analysis seems to show that referees frequently get more than a third of decisions wrong.

The longer football allows itself to cling to outmoded concepts of unchallengeable authoritarianism, a concept that other sports like, cricket, rugby and tennis parted from some time ago, the less respect their officials will get and the more frequently managers like Ferguson, Wenger and many others will find themselves serving touchline bans.

What makes it a matter of some urgency is that the autocracy of the referee clearly isn't working in earning the respect they seek. The proposed strike of match officials in Scotland leading to referees from other federations being drafted in was followed by the French Ligue drafting in officials from the lower leagues in place of match officials who had voted to delay kick offs by 15 minutes in protest at the lack of respect they received. Until football realises, as others have done, that respect has to be earned and not demanded it will not attract enough people with the strength of character, the intelligence and self belief to accept that their decisions can be publicly examined and more often supported for the greater understanding that will be encouraged.




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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Thursday March 17 2011

Time: 10:46PM

Your Comments

What about the trial of 5 referees on the pitch. 2 near the goalmouth. Absolutely shambolic decision making I've seen even with their help. Remember the Vela penalty decision that went against us against Braga was it?? Late in the game. If we had won that penalty and scored we would have faced Roma in the next round and would probably still be in the Champions League. The minutest of mistakes can have the greatest of consequences and I do hope UEFA start using technology. It's been far too long that they've ignored the advantages of goal line technology and TV replays. UEFA must show progress. They must know that times have changed and that they need to move on with the times.
Eboue=GOD
Look at the performnce of the average player on a match day: forever making the wrong pass, poorly timed tackles, wayward shots. Managers making poor decisions, reading the game badly. Why should we expect refs to be any different? They are human after all. What needs to be looked at is ongoing professional development, and not the conspiracy theories this article alludes to. What we need are stronger refs - and managers who show some respect. managers moaning about refs has really blighted the game in recent years, I wish they'd just shut the ***** up and concentrate on their jobs. always the same *****ers doing it as well.
Henry Baker Brown
The article doesn't allude to any conspiracy theories. Even conspiring to keep performance information out of the public domain can be considered a conspiracy practice rather than a conspiracy theory. Removing the unchallengeable assumption that the referee is always right when he is palpably wrong as they have done to good effect in cricket is ongoing professional development. The argument that others are human too doesn't really wash. No need for the airline pilot to be good at his job his passengers make mistakes too as will patients so need for surgeons to worry too much either. If managers criticising referees in recent years (and lets face it pretty well everyone of them has done so) has increased then the present policy of hear nothing, say nothing, do nothing clearly isn't working for refs either.
Amos.
HBB- shut up and take it?! The Managers, players and Fans are fed up to the back teeth with watching COSTLY mistakes and inconsitencies occur week after week after week after week, with absolutely NOTHING being done about it. Blatant elbows, stonewall penalties not given, perfectly good goals ruled offside, offside goals given, goals awarded for ball that don't even go between the posts let alone over the line, players sent off for nothing, brutal challenges unpunished- the list is endless. You can pontificate all you like but the fact is an awful lot of points are being effectively "stolen" by inadequate refereeing and the consequences for clubs either trying to avoid relegation or win a trophy and for managers trying to keep their jobs, are considerable. Enough is enough. Technology first, then the respect will return. And make referees come out to justify themselves at the end of every match, as the managers have to and they should be penalized as well, for poor games.
julieloveshenry4ever
What I like about crickets reviews system is that umpires don't have to justify themselves after a match. Everyone accepts they're human and will make mistakes. The review system helps them to make fewer mistakes. Partly this is because they know that their decisions could be subjected to instant review while the players don't waste their limited reviews making frivolous challenges as they may need them for a more critical situation. Any suggestion that such a system would slow down the game just needs to consider how much time is already wasted in the mle that surrounds any hotly contested decision now. Allowing teams one review per game would calm such situations by obliging both officials and players to consider whether any challenge to a decision would survive an appeal. For it to work it would have to be start with the acceptance that referees need more help because they do get things wrong and that while it is perfectly normal for them to do so at present there is no incentive or motivation to get it right more often.
Amos.
Good article, Amos. What I find interesting is how different countries approach referee mistakes. The English FA resolutely refuses to punish a player if the ref didn't see it and fails to report it. Of course the FA has in the past broken its own rule when media and public scrutiny/condemnation was so intense that it couldn't do otherwise: the Pedro Mendes/Ben Thatcher incident. But that's extremely rare. The FA leads everyone to believe that this is a UEFA/FIFA rule when it isn't. Even Blatter contradicted them recently in the wake of Rooney's elbow incident. In Brazil and France, for instance, the national football federations regularly look at ref mistakes and punish players players or coaches/managers for wrongdoing even if the ref missed it. Or they'll sometimes rescind a serious booking if-after video examination-they feel the ref was wrong. Other countries do this as well - the MLS every season punishes players retroactively for things the ref either missed or decided not to punish even if he did see it. Last season this happened to Thierry Henry when he injured a keeper. In this way, some countries try to address the authorities' refusal to adopt modern techniques of dealing with referee errors. This issue is a huge reason why I don't think Americans will ever take to the sport in large numbers, they're too used to sports that have adopted technology to assist refs in making better decisions. FIFA's/UEFA's policy is so inherently contradictory and does damage to the integrity of the sport and their own refs. They insist on upholding the infallibility of a ref's decision yet we keep being told that they're only human and make mistakes. Well yes they're only human - so WHY MUST WE TREAT THEIR DECISIONS AS INFALLIBLE??? Which is it? The situation is inherently bad for the sport & creates far more rancor & controversey than in other sports. It's already doing serious damage to the credibility of major int'l tournaments with worldwide audiences like the world cup. In four straight world cups in a row, major ref mistakes became huge talking points globablly-each one becoming more of a global controversey as audiences increased. In 2006 FIFA had to go against its own rules against technology & punish Zidane for his headbutt-according to its own rules, Zidane should've stayed on the pitch. Yet FIFA implicitly recognized that the power of technology, with the whole world watching replays of the incident, not punishing Zidane would do serious damage to its own credibility. Then of course the Lampard goal that wasn't called in S.Africa, and the USA's 2 goals wrongly called for offside & other decisions. FIFA's intransigence on this issue is seriously damaging the sport's integrity & credibility because more and more people are watching it around the world. They could get away with it when the sport had smaller audiences globally, not now.
jaelle
Sorry for the long post, I'll test your patience a little more. At the infamous France-Ireland wc 2nd leg qualifier, AW was working as a commentator for French TV. About a week after the game he was interviewed by English reporters & I'll never forget what he said. He watched the ref struggle to figure out what to do. It was clear he hadn't seen Henry's handball, nor were his assistants any help. Yet he could see that the way the Irish players were reacting that something had happened & he'd missed it. AW said he could see the ref struggling, knowing something was wrong but he could do nothing about it according to the rules. Unlike others who trashed the ref in that game, AW looked upon him with sympathy because he could see close up the ref was an honest man, wanting to act on his supicion something had been missed but not able to because he nor his assistants could honestly say they saw anything. He said it was a perfect example of why officials need help-that technology is just a way to help a ref make better decisions. AW made the point (and I've seen this written about elsewhere) that many refs themselves WANT technological assistance to help them because then it would make them less vulnerable to abuse and they'd be better respected. BTW, that's twice now that a ref has destroyed the spectacle at Nou Camp in a game between 2 of the best attacking teams in the world. You'll notice the ref from the 2006 final never officiated at another CL game again.
jaelle
The problem is a lack of really good refs nowadays. There is clearly an issue here; but I'll wager that if you get down to the nitty-gritty it's a problem with a lack of quality training for refs and not enough stringency in the qualification process for recieving your badges. The answer to this is to improve the quality of the training in order to improve the quality of the refs; not to start messing around with the game because of the moaning and griping of a few disgruntled managers. If the system is robust enough there needn't be a problem. Maybe it isn't? I don't know. We've had this over the last few years in education as well. Removing power from the ref isn't going to help, it will make the matter worse:much much worse. We should be giving refs more power,not less. Julie why should refs be hauled in front of the media and forced to explain themselves? If the systems are robust enough with enough peer evaluation of performance there's no reason why they should have to explain themselves to Joe Bloggs who probably has very little knowledge of the game anyway. It's become a real blight on our game; managers have got to stop calling refs out time and again after every result and turning them into the story. Most of the time refs are correct in the decisions they make, but their mistakes are highlighted; oddly enough, always by the manager who has lost.
Henry Baker Brown
Excellent article, right on the nose. I'm sick of the "it's a hard job" excuse. A lot of jobs are difficult, but don't get that kind of let off. It's clear refs need help now, understandably, but the F.A. are too fecking lazy to do anything. There's an old Chinese proverb that says, "he who asks is a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask is a fool forever."
Little Dutch
You've missed the point completely HBB. This isn't about taking power away from referees it's about empowering them. Referees are universally mocked and derided because it is clear to anyone with eyes that they get far too many key decisions wrong and that often intentionally or subliminally they make decisions that are partial to the environment they make them in. Putting them in a situation where their decisions can be instantly reviewed obliges them to make sure their decisions can stand up to separate scrutiny and at the same time obliges anyone wishing to challenge their decisions to consider whether their objections can also stand the same scrutiny. Cricket umpires are not less respected because their decisions can be checked and costly human errors instantly rectified they earn greater respect because any errors they do make can be seen as understandable human error. There is nothing for them to fear from a process that understands they are human. Jaelle has hit the nail full square on its head. They know they are not infallible, we all know they are not infallible. Why not treat them as such and give them the help they need to improve decision making.
Amos.
Very good article. Whether decisions go for you or against you, it would be a far more satisfactory feeling if you felt the key decisions were correct. I've never been as outraged as recently by the performances and decisions of the ref in the home games against Everton and Sunderland and the away game at Newcastle. You train hard all week, all season, you put your passion and desire into everything, you get your tactics and organisation right, and then it all goes to smoke in a crucial game because of refereeing incompetence? Why bother.
Gooner_Vin
Ok, so would you support harsher punishments for those who abuse referees then? If you had your review process implemented? Is this a two way street or just about taking action to 'support' refs? Is this respect flowing both ways?
Henry Baker Brown
There's already plenty of scope for punishing referee abuse - ask Ferguson - and others. It's a one way street at the moment and referees are losing respect despite this - as a consequence even. Make everyone think harder about their decisions and whether they'll withstand scrutiny and chances are better decisions will be made. You just need to look at how greater respect has been earned by officials in other sports to understand that autocratic officials end up with far less respect.
Amos.
Maybe this system could work? Who knows, but a trial might be a sensible way forward. Along with a review of the disciplinary procedures in place and maybe a new code of conduct drawn-up to tackle ref abuse. Two-way street. Also you keep using this phrase 'autocratic officials'. All officials are autocratic, they have to be, they're controlling a game in front of a baying crowd and millions on telly! Common sense and having good communication skills nip many of these problems in the bud; and that comes down to high-quality training for refs.
Henry Baker Brown
They can't be autocrats if their decisions can be reviewed in real time and overruled as currently happens in cricket. If common sense and good communication skills were all that was needed to improve the current perceptions of refereeing ineptitude then the issue would have been resolved ages ago. Absolute power corrupts. Make the decisions of officials subject to instant scrutiny and their decisions are likely to be grounded in greater objectivity.
Amos.
Like I said, it could work. But you seem to be merely repeating your argument and not really addressing the issue of poor behaviour from managers and others. The only way forward would be a proper dialogue and a compromise that offers protection and respect to both parties; otherwise it's a conversation that's heading nowhere. Although you'd refute it, the logical bottom line of your argument is that managers aren't really responsible for their actions, it's the system that leaves them exasperated. If we remove the problems, we remove the symptoms. I think this is a little bit worrying as it allows managers and fans to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions because it encourages a "Hey, it's not me, it's the system that's broken"! kind of attitude. The only way forward is for both parties to work together to guarantee each other's security. In conclusion, then, this article makes some valid points but doesn't take into account both sides of the argument.
Henry Baker Brown
I'm not so much repeating my arguments as you are missing the essential point though you are engaging the argument. The behaviour of managers and players towards officials is a consequence of the problem not the problem itself. If officiating is more just and is seen to be just then we won't get the same degree of reactions to poor officials that we do now. It's pretty well every manager in the league that has found himself in trouble at one time or another so it's pretty useless to say what we need to do is talk about it a little more. What we need is an acceptance that we need to modernise the way we referee games as pretty well every other major sport has managed to do. Ultimately refs will gain more respect and we'll encourage better people to take up the role.
Amos.
 

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