Referees have been taking a lot of criticism recently (even more so than usual) and fair enough, there have been quite a few dodgy decisions that may have made certain teams feel like they have been targeted such as Wigan at Stamford Bridge and then Tottenham in the FA Cup Semi-Final, both against Chelsea. Despite this, I have a lot of sympathy for referee’s and think enough isn’t being done to protect them from the glare of the spotlight.
There aren’t many people out there in the football world that are against goal line technology and many people are totally bemused as to why it hasn’t been introduced already. Schemes such as the added officials were never going to work as they cover too little an area and 6 officials per game would be almost impossible to achieve lower down the league ladder. Whilst the powers that be delay the inevitable the football world has to get on with what they have got. This means accepting that referees may make mistakes as they are only human and even Lionel Messi makes the odd mistake!
I feel the media have a large part to play in the current hounding of referees. Take Martin Atkinson for example, on March 10th Atkinson and his team failed to spot that QPR’s Clint Hill had headed the ball over the line because of Bolton’s Adam Bogdan’s incredibly quick reactions to claw the ball away. Atkinson and the officials were slaughtered in the press for this and may face even more pressure if QPR are relegated this season. This was clearly in his mind during the FA Cup Semi-Final between Tottenham and Chelsea when he simply guessed that Juan Mata’s effort on goal had crossed the line despite being blocked by a muddle of Spurs players nowhere near the goal.
Yet again, Atkinson has been slated in the media. Fair enough, both decisions made were wrong but we know this after a slow-motion replay from every possible angle. Atkinson made these decisions in split seconds and I believe that without the media intensity after the Bolton-QPR game, Atkinson would not have felt the pressure to guess the Semi Final decision.
Another key reason for the great intensity of pressure on referees is the lack of clarity in the Laws of the game. This can be said as even the football teams themselves seem to be struggling to fully understand the handball, offside and sliding tackling rules. Handball is now purely down to individual interpretation of the referee and whether they feel it was intentional/a big advantage was gained. Offside is obviously clear when several yards beyond the 2nd last man, however some decisions are given needing sunlight between defender and attacker and some are just one body part has to be closer to the goal then the defender. Finally, sliding tackles have been in the news a lot recently and referees can now use excessive force as a reason to send a man off and this once again is down to personal interpretation.
It is often said that the sign of a good referee is to be noticed as little as possible, with the current issue of goal line technology, FIFA are putting more spotlight then is necessary on these men. However, I feel referees should be allowed to judge each individual situation (regarding handball and sliding tackles) using their own interpretation and if some teams feel hard done to then I am afraid that is just Football.
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