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Time to Card Referees?

By Jay Harris :  23/06/2010 :  Comments (21) :
I have an American girlfriend (Ok, that can be good or bad) and like most Americans she loves American Football.

As she has started to watch proper football with me going on about referees decisions she asked why we didn't do something about it.

Now without going into the semantics of FIFA and the FA being the equivalent of the designers of the Titanic, I just fobbed her off.

However she did come up with some interesting observations:

  1. (And I know many of you especially the USA division are already aware of this.) In American football each team is allowed to question key refereeing decisions up to two times in a game. The Referee then has to consult his assistants and check video if necessary.Now this takes all of a couple of minutes and doesnt seem to upset the rhythm of their game.

  2. (And this is where she really came off the wall) When I was complaining about some of the ridiculous red and yellow cards she said why don't you card referees.

    Yellow for a really bad decision and red for a really bad game.

    2 yellows over a period of time equates to a red and causes a 1 game suspension.

Now this comes from somebody who knows little about football so why can't FIFA and the FA come up with something better than the garbage we're watching right now.

I mumbled on about refereeing becoming a vocation and should need study like for a coaching badge but that suggestion was laughed off with typical American bluntness.

What are your thoughts on refereeing and what should be done about it.

Reader Comments

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Lyndon Lloyd
1   Posted 24/06/2010 at 00:26:24

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By cautioning or disciplining match officials as publicly and officially as this, Fifa would be seen to be compromising their faith in their own appointed referees, which is not something I can see Blatter doing any time soon. As you point out, American sport holds its officials to be much more accountable for their decisions.

The biggest problem that I see is Fifa itself and the fact that a lot of the poor decisions are a direct result of Fifa's own over-zealous directives and the inconsistency with which they're applied.

It seems as though no common sense refereeing is allowed anymore. A directive must be carried out whether or not there might be extenuating circumstances in a given incident. (Harry Kewell, for example, is red-carded automatically for preventing a goal even though there was no intent behind his handball — the ball struck his out-stretched arm as he was trying to pull it in.)

And then these directives come and go like fads. At one World Cup, for example, the big thing is shirt tugging and everyone gets booked for it; at the next, namely this one, they hardly get punished at all (only a couple of instances spring to mind).

James Flynn
2   Posted 24/06/2010 at 00:57:22

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What we should keep in mind is WHY game officials here are so scrutinized. Yes, part is simply to have the best officials, minimal error, little officiating effect on game outcome, etc. Same as everywhere.

But THE reason is fear of match-fixing. What gets me is how Blatter makes these little noises about the fear of match-fixing while it's going on and becoming bigger in Eastern Europe and the Orient.

And yet referrees are not being held accountable by FIFA or at least held to public scrutiny. Doesn't he realize this attitude is presenting the very atmosphere of secrecy and silence that's critical to fixing matches?

Jay's girlfriend's got it right. Over here, officials have to answer for blatant error and can be suspended for incompetence. All the major sports are like that, with basketball and American football the most worried about match-fixing thru the refs. Because it's happened in both sports.

Now don't misunderstand me. We still have shitty refs in all of our sports. That's never going away.
Chad Schofield
3   Posted 24/06/2010 at 01:42:17

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Initially this seems like a no-brainer... I mean this season's "respect" campaign surely would have had considerably more legs had those who held the cards themselves been seen to be more accountable. Whilst most people say that most decisions equal themselves out over the course of the season, given Ireland's exclusion from this World Cup courtesy of some additional va-va-arm, isn't it that kind of philosophy that leads Hindu bus drivers to overtake on blind comers on mountain roads... In essence everything comes down to fate. Except then why bother to train and exert all that energy when everything is already written? One of Maradona's 36 year old gambles has come through but will it all come down to what he has seen in his dreams, or will Argentina, with all the talent that they are blessed with, should they win the World Cup have done so inspite of the eccentric genius?!

Personally I do not feel that there was much to do with God that Maradona punched the ball into the net past Shilton in '86... Or indeed that Allah, Ganesh, Orville the Duck or fucking Zues played a part in the wonder goal he scored in the same game. However, he may not have had that opportunity if the game had have been officiated with technology readily available at the time.

So here we are in 2010 deliberating as to whether things should change. David James wrote a great article a number of years ago stating that if we contrived to completely sterilize the game through the use of technology then we as fans would have nothing to talk about post match... It's those should it/could it have been decisions that enable us all to chat on and on. Of course had we had technology in play, would we have taken the place of Bolton on that fateful season that saw them go down instead of us? Arguably, but then we may not have had to rest our fate in the lap of the football Gods because we may have been awarded other things elsewhere.

My view is that there are far more points of conversation to a game than those that can be blatantly be proved one way or another. We've all seen things split second and decreed to our mates it was a nothing tackle/easily on or offside etc... Only to be disproved by multiple angles.

Having more pitch side assistant referees is simply a false prophet, as seen in the Europa League. We simply allow those who are not the all mighty in the middle to hide away from making judgement.

Lyndon makes a good point about both the faddy nature of what officials are rated on and that by officially bringing their disciples into line, FIFA (and the various "churches" which stem from it) will in turn have to justify and clarify their reasoning... which to me, as a paying parishioner, spells respect.

Let us rid ourselves of hypocrisy, look to the light(s, cameras and action) and see the truth rather than simulation or the blind leading the blind!

Too far?
Chad Schofield
4   Posted 24/06/2010 at 02:05:29

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Forgot to add that the match officials are already held accountable thanks to every spurious stat being spewed out from the media, commentators and pundits.

Please don't bomb my embassy if you're of religious persuasion or a massive fan of Orville.
Kirk McArdle
5   Posted 24/06/2010 at 05:06:04

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If we are looking from a World Cup perspective then as much as it is a World Team tournament you can then understand why FIFA insists on referees from all corners. But can you honestly agree with an official from the likes of Mali, Uzbekistan or the Seychelles should be in charge of any international game. These referees do not have anywhere near the right amount of experience for an international stage. The quality of games they officiate in a national season would surely be classed as League 2 or even non-league football. It begs the question why FIFA just cannot say that the 38 best referees from the 5 or 6 strongest national leagues will be the ones officiating the tournament.

Oh yes..... Sorry. I forgot. FIFA actually being pro-active in any decision that could harm the way in which they (Sep "I'm never leaving this job until they carry me out feet first in a wodden box" Blatter) run this dictatorship of a governing body is a stupid notion. Silly Kirk!!

If we look at this from a domestic point, the FA and the Premier League already penalize referees for bad performances. If any of the 4 officials have a bad game with some obvious mistakes in their officiating and they do not include this in their match reports, then referees do get "taken off" the roster for upcoming matches and also can be demoted to leagues below their current level then have to "build up" their reputation and quality of officiating to get back to the upper echelons. I am sure this happened to everyone's favourite Mr Clattenberg last season?? I could stand to be corrected on this.

This is in essence the equivalent of the yellow and red scheme suggested above.
Dennis Karanikolopoulos
6   Posted 24/06/2010 at 07:09:13

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A simple solution, I think, would be to enforce a 2nd referee consulting a video replay for any red card decision... i.e. if the ref wants to give a red card, a 2nd referee somewhat akin to cricket's 3rd umpire would need to consult the replay and relay the message to the ref via a headset.

Surely it can't be more simple than that? Red cards can have too big an impact on a game to allow mistakes to happen...
Michael Brien
7   Posted 24/06/2010 at 07:17:14

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Perhaps, instead of fads, Fifa should take a long and hard look at the standards of the match officials. It seems that at every World Cup in recent years there have been controversial and basically inconsistent decisions that have cost teams dearly. As much as I look forward to every World Cup, I now do so with a certain degree apprehension, because, as sure as night follows day, you will see some match spoiled by a poor referee.

The incident in the 2006 World Cup with Graham Poll highlighted this. He gives a player 3 yellow cards!!! If it happened in the Unibond League, it would be embarrassing but in the World Cup!! Absolutely unbelievable — and to think Poll gives his so-called expert opinion in one of the national newspapers. You wouldn't see an umpire in an Ashes Test Match forget how many balls have been bowled in an over would you ?

Personally, I think that Football would do well to look at Rugby Union. In that sport there appears to be a mutual respect between players and match officials. The players show respect for the Referees, but the Referees show respect for the players, eg:

1) The referees use the team captains to instill discipline, asking the captain to speak to a player who has transgressed as a warning, and only giving a card if the offence is repeated.

2) The referees also seem to show an awareness of the conditions/situation of the match. At the 6 Nations Grand Slam decider in Cardiff in 2009, the referee was aware of the tension surrounding the match and diffused a spat between two players rather than issuing cards.

An innovation I would like to see imported from Rugby and other sports, is the sin bin. I think it allows a player to calm down and doesn't allow a match to be ruined as a contest because of one rash action.

Kirk McArdle
8   Posted 24/06/2010 at 08:23:04

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Michael, I'm not sure on the sin bin idea as there are a couple of problems:

1, Say if a player is sent to the sin bin for 5 mins to "cool off" wouldn't the opposing team then target the player upon his re-instatement?? "He's on a short fuse guys. Tug his shirt, tap his shins, call his girlfriend a money grabbing bitch (even though he knows it already) GET HIM TO BLOW."

2, It also opens up the "never a red card, should have just been sin-binned", "why didn't he go for that tackle instead of 5 mins in a pitchside bin?" debates.

Referees have enough trouble with red and yellow cards. Let's not confuse them with another option!!

Thor Sørensen
9   Posted 24/06/2010 at 10:41:56

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A bit of a sidenote, but regarding the incident against Bolton in 1998. Yes, the ball DID cross the line, but surely Neville Southall should've been awarded a free-kick as he was clearly fouled. A Bolton player shoved both him and the ball across the line.
Mike Allison
10   Posted 24/06/2010 at 11:18:28

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"Call his girlfriend a money grabbing bitch (even though he knows it already)"

Surely they'd all know it's true of them already.

The big problem with video replays, and why it's not analogous to American Football at all, is that proper football is a non-stop game. There are no time-outs, the clock doesn't stop and there's only one break in the middle. Only a line decision (basically a goal, or whether a foul was in or out of the box) could be done anyway as they're the only ones we could look at quickly enough.

The only solution is lots of retrospective action against cheats and bad refs.
Michael Brien
11   Posted 24/06/2010 at 12:34:08

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Kirk, the idea is to counter the card-happy nature of some officials; too often in my opinion they use a yellow card as a first resort. I heard a commentator last night during the Australia v Serbia match say "It is a physical contact sport after all".

The sin bin is used in Rugby to very good effect. But basically the point I wanted to make was that it is all very well having a "Respect" initiative. The respect has to be two ways from players to officials and officials to players. Wouldn't it be better if say the only player allowed to go to a referee and query a decision was the team captain?

Peter Warren
12   Posted 24/06/2010 at 13:03:56

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Goaline technology – yes.

Video technology on replays – no. You would get "defensive referring" – i.e. for penalties, referee more inclined to give penalty as if he gets it wrong, then video replay will bail him out. This would leave to a stop-start game.
Peter Warren
13   Posted 24/06/2010 at 13:05:39

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Referee standards have been poor this world cup but the linesmen have been amazing — I haven't seen them get an offside decision wrong.

NB: I missed the SA v Mexico opener and understand some controversy by linesman in that game.
Jeff Magee
14   Posted 24/06/2010 at 13:24:48

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Simple solution is penalty goal - examples such as Kewel and Nigerian keeper suit this perfectly - no need to punish with even a yellow card and take the uncertainty out of it by not bothering with the penalty just award a penalty goal – if either of the above ‘offences’ were deliberate then who will get more stick from his manager/team mates and fans – the current rule player who takes a hit for the cause ie a sending off in the hope that the subsequent penalty is missed, or the guy under the new rule who gives a definite goal away? And if it was deliberate then justice has been done (and seen to be done so everyone including the ref and FIFA look good). This can then release the punishment of a penalty award to be used outside the box for example how many times do we see the chasing defender deliberately make contact outside the box to avoid a penalty - under my system a penalty could be awarded for any such blatant (or otherwise) offense – again no need for yellow card as giving away a penalty is punishment enough - double and sometime triples jeopardy is another rule which confuses me - penalty, sending off and missing future games for an offence which only the perpetrator truly knows whether it was deliberate or not. The penalty for offences outside the box could also be used for instances such as Timmy Cahills sending off against the Germans.
I cannot understand FIFAs obsession with sending people off - I hate it and they have contrived to make the rules so that it is so easy to send a player off - as I argue every week with anyone who will listen – if the ref applied the ‘letter of the law’ which the pundits always trot out as a defence for harsh/dodgy decisions he could/should send off almost all of the 22 players within 10-15 minutes of the start but he only applies the letter of the law to certain incidents and everyone seems to accept this. FIFAs standard defence of their strange rule changes is to make the game a better spectacle for the fans with flair players being protected – sending people off and making the process easier is not the answer as has been proved over the years – they might as well say they will kidnap the kids and sell them into slavery as a deterrent - for in the heat of the moment most players will either instinctively, deliberately or otherwise handle the ball, pull back or trip the opponent. All games are affected by a goal – therefore penalty goals and penalty for offences outside the box would I believe be a much better deterrent than a sending off.
All of which comes back to Jays girlfriend – I agree with her and am totally frustrated that there appears to be no way for us (the fans) to change these stupid rules and many other things – players wages, Sky monopoly, Champions League farce (rich get richer further imbalance etc) etc, etc –
Come the revolution things are going to change around here! - (how can we start it?)
Martin Mason
15   Posted 24/06/2010 at 15:24:48

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Excellent idea. It would introduce accountability where it is currently lacking.
Michael Brien
16   Posted 24/06/2010 at 17:24:08

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A very interesting idea, Jeff. Even though it was an ex-RS in Kewell, I thought that sending off was rather harsh to say the least — how on earth could any player in that situation with the ball heading towards him at speed get out of the way? As you say, in effect Australia were actually penalised 3 times — the penalty, the sending off and the subsequent suspension.

Given the cost of tickets to these matches, the obsession with dishing out red cards in many cases ruins matches as a spectacle. Had Kewell remained on the pitch at 1-1 the Aussies were still very much in the game, indeed they had been the better team up to that stage. However, the sending off completely altered the course of the match and Australia were forced to switch to more defensive tactics — until the last quarter of the match.

I totally agree with your letter of the law theory. I prefer to call it - The Letter of the Law when it suits them approach to the game. I saw a couple of Serbian challenges in last night's match that were far worse than Tim Caahill's sending off offence.

I think it has got to the stage where in every World Cup of recent times the standard of the Match Officials has left a lot to be desired. Perhaps instead of all their pre-tournament edicts, Fifa could stress the need for the officials to use "common sense". Mind you, this is Fifa we're talking about — it's probably too much to hope that there are people within Fifa that have any common sense.

Dave Smith
17   Posted 24/06/2010 at 19:59:01

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Everyone say's that video technology would 'slow the game down'. Yet, in the recent Brazil - Ivory Coast game, everyone wacthing from a TV knew what Kaka had (or hadn't) done before the referee gave him a red card.

My point is this: The so-called 'fourth' official is a waste of space at the moment. Give him a TV screen to watch replays. That would allow him to advise the ref on the big decisions. "Where's the time?" you ask? Next time the ref gives a big decision, time how long it is before all the players settle and play is gotten under way. Then count how many replay's (and angles) of the incident you have just seen. Replay's these days are virtually instant.

PS: Note how I say 'advise'. Under no circumstances should a ref hold up play while the fourth official looks at the replay.
Steve Pugh
18   Posted 24/06/2010 at 22:09:00

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Just out of curiosity, what training do officials get from Fifa before the World Cup starts. Is it just a quick note through the post saying "this is what we expect", or do they all get together and get shown how to behave and when to card, or not etc.
Pat Finegan
19   Posted 25/06/2010 at 18:42:46

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I don't think video review would work in football (real football). American football is, by nature, a very stop-start type of game. There are intervals of up to 40 seconds between plays when teams can ask for a review. Football is continuous in nature and to stop play for a couple minutes to review a play would be detrimental to the game. The only instance where i could possibly see replay taking place is in a goal/no goal situation. Refs are going to make mistakes and unfortunately, there's no way around it.
Dave Smith
20   Posted 27/06/2010 at 18:44:24

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Surely now the precedent should be set for goal line technology?

The England 'goal' was a good 2 yards past the line. If I was German, I'd be embarrased by it. It was shocking and disgraceful. Clearly a goal, no doubt. The referee and linesman doing no credit to themselves.

What arguement do FIFA have now?
Jay Harris
21   Posted 29/06/2010 at 00:25:17

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modern technology means we don't have to put up with incompetence and/or corruption.

A video ref (or 2) studying a monitor could let the referee know by direct radio (i.e. seconds) on key decisions and even off-the-ball incidents that the referee may not notice.

This is the 21st century even though Fifa and the FA are still in the 19th century.

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