The crowd boos it. Players get sent off for moaning about it. Managers get banned for talking about it. Match of the Day and Sky Sports over-analyse it, as their intensely boring, uninspiring and pointless pundits offer their opinions on it, which normally reflect what everyone was thinking anyway, thus elevating the already irrelevant issue further into the consciousness of public opinion, forcing even more people to think about it.
And all around a subject that none of us can affect. Yes, folks, it’s refereeing – the thing that is supposed to remain constant through all the matches, marshalling the two sides of eleven players to make sure that they play within the defined laws of the game based upon the training they have received which gives them the right to enforce said rules on the pitch.
But to what extent does this training come into play? Do they actually make decisions based upon what they see with their official trained eyes, or is it simply a manifestation of the environment they are forced to work within?
And is there any better example of this than the recent Juan Mata goal line exploits that occurred at Wembley the other day. Martin Atkinson, who has earned his own slot on Soccer AM from this memorable decision for both teams that day (called Martin Atkinson’s Goal of the Week, in which a clip of a shot from Juan Mata goes miles wide is shown), was the man with the cards that day, and its safe to say that him (and probably Rowan Atkinson’s Twitter account) got a fair amount of abuse for this decision. But did he really make the decision? Or did the Chelsea fans just scream loudest?
Now, no one can argue that it was a terrible decision, because the fundamentals of it were that it did not cross the line, and the massive influence that goals have on a match make it very different to a standard poor decision on a foul or something similar. But I don’t think Martin Atkinson’s eyesight is what requires questioning, as difficult as it is for most football fans to believe a poor decision is anything but because the referee is blind, with focus really be on the environment in which referees have to operate in every week.
For one, the stadium. The since the advent of megatrons and all the other fun stuff to go along with the massive increase both in stadium size as well as physical capacity, the very idea of refereeing itself becomes a lot more daunting. There’s more fans, which means more noise, as well as the knowledge that your decision is being scrutinized by people even in the stadium instantly via people on the outside who have access to the endless replays that Sky insists on showing. And once this knowledge is there, words spreads, and when 50,000 people know you’ve made a wrong decision, things aren’t going to get any easier.
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