George Dearnaley

Give the referee a chance

2008-12-05 09:09
Sport24 columnist George Dearnaley (File)
George Dearnaley

There have been a lot of crucial errors and decisive mistakes in high profile matches recently, and the referees are in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Players can miss easy chances and goalies can flap at easy crosses, but heaven help a ref who gets a decision wrong.

I’ve argued in the past that mistakes are part of the game and that goal-line technology should not be implemented. I just can’t see how it will be used if the ball crashes off the bar, bounces down and then out and the opposition launch a counter attack. Does the ref stop the game, review the incident, decide it didn’t cross the line and then wave play on? It’s an easy argument if the ball did cross the line, but what if it didn’t?

I was at the SoccerEx event in Johannesburg recently and one of the talks I went to was by former Arsenal supremo David Dein. He is in favour of goal-line technology but admitted he didn’t have all the answers with regards the application thereof. But two other topics that he raised were very relevant and, I admit, not something I had ever thought about.

Independent timekeeper

Dein suggested that the referee has enough on his plate without having to keep an eye on the time. This is especially true when it comes to time-added and time-wasted as he can’t be hitting the stop button on his wrist-watch every time the ball is dead or a player is rolling around or someone is giving him an earful.

Dein suggested that the time is kept by an independent observer and when it is up a hooter sounds and the game is officially over when the ball is dead. Similar to rugby. But different. FIFA would have to amend laws 5 and 7 to include our little independent observer but it can’t be too hard to do.

Unsporting behaviour

He also pointed out that players who run the ball into the corner flag in order to waste time are actually in breach of law 12 where a player can be sanctioned for ‘unsporting behaviour’. So if a player deliberately wastes time, the ref should book the offending player and give the opposition an indirect free-kick. That would solve that problem!

Locally Orlando Pirates were the beneficiaries of a bad decision when Bloemfontein Celtic had a player wrongly sent off in the semi-final of the Telkom Knockout. Pirates went on to win 3-0 and will appear in the final against Ajax Cape Town which has Celtic supporters up in arms over the apparent injustice. In this case it seems the referee did not make the mistake, but was advised by his fourth official of the apparent foul play and reacted to the situation.

Had there been technology in place, John Maduka of Celtic could have asked the ref to review the incident on video and saved his team-mate from an early shower. This might not have helped Celtic get to the final, but would have stopped all the criticism towards the referee and his colleagues.

Someone argued that a refereeing error could cost a team their place in the league because a wrongly given or disallowed goal could end up in the team being relegated. I would argue that any team that is in that position after a long hard season has no excuses. You would have had your share of good luck and your share of bad luck over the season, and to blame your predicament on one decision is nothing short of a massive excuse.

Don’t rely on the last game and don’t rely on the referee to save you.

George is Media24's Soccer Business Manager - and Manchester United's greatest supporter.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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