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Being forced out of love...

By Stephen Hale  : 10/11/06

...with the not so ‘beautiful ' game

Wednesday's game against Arsenal finally pushed me over the edge. I spend an immeasurable amount of time and money following Everton up and down the country two times a week, sometimes three. Why? a) because I am an Evertonian. But more importantly b) because I love football. I am a football fan first, and an Everton supporter second.

Now I have absolutely no problem with watching Everton getting outplayed or unluckily beaten, because that is part of the game. Defeat is the risk you take when purchasing a ticket and traveling to Wigan on a wet Wednesday night. But what I cannot put up with any longer is the game being decided by poor refereeing, and games being ruined by the officials. Wednesday night's game was totally ruined as a spectacle by one of the worst refereeing decisions I have ever seen. (If you sent off every player for questioning a refereeing decision, you would have no players left on the pitch every week! I wonder if Mr Poll has ever seen video footage of Rooney after not getting a decision?!) I would much rather Everton had lost 3-0 in an entertaining game in which they attacked instead of the dire game we were subjected to. ‘The beautiful game’ was made ugly by a refereeing decision.

Why should we sit back and watch while overpaid, limelight hogging professionals prance about as if they are God? And yes, I am still talking about the refs. Poll, for example, as England’s “best ref” made nearly ₤75,000 last year I am reliably informed. And quite simply in any other place of work, going about your job in such a substandard manner would see you sacked. These are professional men, why are they exempt from the axe? I understand that referees are in a lose-lose situation, but even then, there are no excuses for some of the terrible decisions we have been subject to this season. And this is not me being a biased blue: What about Chris Powell for Watford on the opening day? Heading the ball clear, penalty for handball apparently. Tony Hibbert making a Gordon Banks style save in the Derby. Again, Graeme Poll, that thing from Tring, waved play on…

My point is the ruining of the beautiful game as a exhibition by referees. John Terry, England captain, bumped into a Tottenham player on Sunday and got a second yellow. I could hardly believe my eyes. Now I know football is fast becoming a non-contact sport (but that is an entirely different complaint of mine) but that was ridiculous. Credit to Terry for leaving the pitch with such grace, he must have wanted to throttle the incompetent fool.

Quite simply, football is being ruined in many ways, but this is in no way the players fault. Referees are there to keep order, not make decision that help enhance their profile and give them more space on the back pages. I am fed up of walking down Goodison Road or turning off Sky Sports 1, turning to my Dad and saying “the ref ruined that game”. Sack them, or at the very least make them explain decisions publicly.

Moyes or McFadden can’t say it because they get fined or charged with misconduct, but as a paying customer I can say it — the refereeing standard in ‘one of Europe’s top leagues’ is a disgrace and the FA looks like a joke when they blindly defend inexplicable refereeing decisions, and keep issuing poor officials with high-profile games.

It needs sorting soon, or the FA will have to run the risk of losing the fans. And don’t forget, we are the ones that keep them all in jobs…


It was HIM

Firstly would like to say that the decisions of Graham Poll did indeed harm a potentially good match. I agree with that. With my blue specs on I can also say that most of the other refs have cost us victory at some time too. However it isn't refs that “push me over the edge”. It is modern players, managers, paymasters and their apologists like Stephen Hale.

I thought I'd found a like-minded person when I scanned his article “Being forced Out of Love”.

“Why should we sit back and watch while overpaid, limelight hogging professionals prance about as if they are God?” Must be the players. Sadly he then went on to say: “Quite simply, football is being ruined in many ways, but this is in no way the players fault....”

Oh for Christ's sake, Stephen! Players today behave like overgrown and under developed school children. They will try to deceive the ref at any chance they have. If things don't go their way they throw tantrums, sulk, whine, chuck themselves on the ground and pretend they're hurt, point their fingers and say “It wasn't me, he did it”. The kind of behaviour wise parents ignore in 5 year olds.

All of this is vital to the media. They need more than 90 minutes to talk about. There are advert breaks to make programmes around and pages to fill. So they encourage this. They analyse a tantrum. They justify it. They search for them. They even bloody pay for them.

They have made it accepted that it is right to go down rather than try and score. A theatrical display worthy of an Oscar is fine if the reply shows “contact was made”. If contact is not made it was just bad acting. Watch a game on TV with the sound down and see how bad it is.

Meanwhile the footballing equivalent of the parent sits on the side line and watches. The manager then after every game then tells the media how his little boy is a good boy, it wasn't his fault and nobody is being fair too his poor little treasure. But if anyone tells me the diving and cheating isn't encouraged by trainers and managers then they are either stupid or just liars. The managers lie weekly about this.

And all this childish nonsense has to be refereed. Every game has to have controversy. It must. Those involved are trained to create it and comment on it. Without it the modern game becomes the old game. One or two refs controversial decisions per game are not enough. So not only is a ref in a no win position as never before, he is also crucified if he tries to impose any standards of discipline onto players.

Is all this just inevitable? Well, watch a rugby game. In this the behaviour of players and coaches shows what is possible. The ref is boss. Players accept the decisions and get on with the game. Cheating is penalised heavily. Refs get decisions wrong and that is accepted. The refs are not so paranoid that their behaviour becomes erratic. They know they are boss. It's harder in football? Well not in the game. Try spotting fouls in a scrum or ruck. It is harder in football because an integral part of a good modern footballer is his ability to cheat.

Stephen is up in arms :“Poll, for example, as England’s “best ref” made nearly ₤75,000 last year I am reliably informed.”

Well this is relative peanuts for the hardest job in modern football. However to follow Stephen's logic, the amount a player gets should easily buy adult behaviour, discipline and ensure no cheating.

I said this to a colleague yesterday and he said the rugby comparison did not stand up as footballers were usually working class lads whilst rugby was traditionally played by the middle classes. I thought it a shame that he thought the working class are by nature indisciplined, childish cheats but he is entitled to his opinion I guess.

So I will still moan abut bad refereeing decisions. Still feel “we woz robbed..” We all have the child in us. But my adult head will know the real problem and that I really should ignore that petulant child. Ged Simpson

Steven Hale's article "Being forced out of love..." is part of a growing feeling of discontent among football fans.  Every club suffers at the hands of refereeing decisions and, as Steven points out, the refs seem unaccountable for some of the awful decisions they make.  Mr "3 yellows" Poll in particular has been guilty of several huge mistakes recently, each worthy of a sacking in any other profession, as Mr Hales points out.  I've never supported the idea of a video ref but the recent controversy has changed my mind and a video ref would certainly be useful in pointing out many errors made by refs.  However, that is a different issue. 

I would like to know if anyone knows of any way the public can represent their views on refereeing decisions or on the referees themselves?  I think Mr Poll particularly has a lot to answer for.  I am well aware referees are in a lose-lose situation as, whatever the decision, there will be people who disagree.  But Mr Poll's games regularly (every week it seems) involve controversy and an excess of cards. — Matthew Jennions

Stephen's message about falling out of love with the game rings true with me.I've watched The Blues in the super eighties, but for me the game has gone downhill since refs became "professional". The last straw for me was when Mike "man u " Riley gave a penalty against Stubbsy against Man U when horseface went down in the penalty area when stubbsy was being backed into. I have vowed never to pay to go to a match since till all refs are held to account for their actions.I'm still waiting ! — Anthony Matthews

I totally agree with Stephen's article on Graeme Poll making the worst decisions ever in football. He is not fit to referee in what is the best league in the world, and the FA seriously need to take a look at his dire performances. — Bluenose Lola

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