Cape Town - There was a time when referees’ decisions were final because they were doing their best and were acting impartially. Not any more, if two recent incidents are anything to go by.
The fact is, we are all human and, from time to time, we make mistakes – and match officials are no different. However, they sometimes they go out of their way to seek attention – at all costs.
Another fact is that bad officiating in any sporting code can ruin careers, promote conflict and cost millions.
Match officials do win and lose matches – deliberately and unintentionally.
From football to boxing, sporting codes are still smarting after poor decisions as referees take their eyes off the ball.
Just as the football community was still coming to terms with Fifa’s ruling on Joseph Lamptey, the boxing world is now reeling from judge Adalaide Byrd’s decision.
While Lamptey has been banned for life from all football activities, Byrd has been temporarily put aside after her controversial 118-110 score in favour of Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez during his middleweight title fight against Gennady Golovkin last weekend.
A fortnight ago, Fifa ordered a replay of a 2018 World Cup qualifier between South Africa and Senegal after it emerged that Lamptey manipulated the outcome of the game. This was after the Ghanaian referee awarded Bafana a controversial penalty and the South Africans went on to win the game 2-1.
The ruling by soccer’s world governing body means the referee’s decision is not final.
Then Byrd created her own controversy last weekend when she scored the bout 118-110 in Canelo’s favour, while the other two judges returned far closer scores –115-113 Golovkin from Dave Moretti and a 114-114 draw from Don Trella – making the result a split draw.
Former award-winning referee Ace Ncobo has weighed in on the two incidents, saying that they ruined both sporting codes.
He slammed both Fifa and Byrd, and said that it called for serious introspection.
Ncobo slammed Fifa’s decision to replay the Bafana game because it undermined the authority of match officials.
“When football is led by stupid people, these are the kinds of decisions you get,” said Ncobo.
“You can’t be a custodian of the laws of the game and, in correcting something that is wrong, then commit something bigger than the wrong you are correcting. This is a precedent that will come back and haunt Fifa big time.”
Instead, argued Ncobo, Fifa should have given Lamptey immunity in return for catching bigger fish.
“The ultimate goal is to correct the deviant behaviour. In South Africa, an accused person who is a small player in the case is given prosecutorial immunity in the form of a lesser sentence or no sentence at all in exchange for testimony against the bigger fish.
“This is what Fifa should have done – get the referee on its side and extract more information about the syndicates, but it missed that opportunity.”
Ncobo also took a swipe at Byrd, saying she was way off the mark in her judging.
“The less said about that judge the better because she was watching a different fight,” said Ncobo.
Boxing judge and referee Sylvia Mokaila was cautious in her comment, saying officials should always arm themselves with the rules of the game and apply them to the fullest.
Mokaila believes the judges’ decision should be final as they are the experts in the field.
“Every code is guided by rules and regulations, and judges and referees should acquaint themselves with these before any match as this will make their jobs easier,” Mokaila said.
“Everyone will judge according to how they saw the fight and it is up to the review panel to change that,” she said.
Mokaila had no comment on Byrd’s scorecard.
This week, World Boxing Organisation heavyweight boxer Hughie Fury also took a swipe at Byrd, saying boxing could do without people like her.
“Judges are judges, but people like that [Byrd] shouldn’t even be in boxing.
“They should be taken straight off and banned. Obviously, they need a serious pair of glasses. They must be blind as bats,” Fury said.
“It’s wrong because they are ruining people’s lives. It’s devastating. The boxer puts in all this hard training and gets a bad result like that, gets stitched up. The best thing to do is just knock them out and then you don’t have to worry about judges at all,” he was quoted as saying by the Sun.
In an effort to reduce these risks and related potential conflicts, football has now introduced goal-line technology and video assistant refereeing; cricket has introduced the decision review system; rugby has opted for video referees; and tennis applies the Hawk-Eye system.