Johannesburg - “The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.”
In simple terms, that means that the ref’s decision is final (sorry for repeating some of the previous sentence).
This is the part that really gets up my nose: “The decisions of the referee, and all other match officials, must always be respected.”
Yeah, right! I wish you luck with that one. Am I being cynical? Probably. But when you’ve travelled down the road I’ve travelled, you’ll understand why.
But getting back to the purpose of this column.
I’ve long been a proponent of doing away with the handshake with players before the game because it is, in my opinion, hypocritical nonsense and I’ve written about it in the past and explained my reasons.
Video assistant referee (VAR) technology is slowly being introduced into the English game, although only in cup games so far.
The technology is there and has been used in cricket, tennis and rugby for some time.
The VAR is widely used in Germany, Holland, the US, Italy, Portugal and some other countries.
Why the English are dragging their feet is anyone’s guess.
I suppose the wheels of change move slowly in that football association.
Having said that, the same situation regarding respect for the match officials applies when it is used, for example, players are not allowed to crowd around the referee or his assistants while a controversial situation (see below) is being clarified.
But, guess what? That’s exactly what they did in a recent game in England.
At the moment in all countries, the VAR is used only for four incidents:
. Mistaken identity;
. Penalty incidents; and
. Direct red cards.
Only those four occasions can be considered by the referee for referral – and the protocols are clearly defined on this.
How is a referee supposed to make a decision with players crowding around him screaming their disapproval or otherwise at a decision he hasn’t even made?
Picture the scene.
An incident has arisen. The referee is in touch with the VAR assistant. He will then seek clear and unambiguous instructions from the VAR.
He can decide to accept or reject that information because the law says the referee on the field of play has the final say.
Recently, I saw an incident during the Asian Cup where an assistant referee put his flag up for offside, but the referee had already given a penalty against the goalkeeper.
Naturally, the players from the team whose keeper had conceded the penalty protested that the assistant had his flag raised for offside and tried to get the penalty reversed.
Upon watching the incident, the assistant was correct – there was an offside offence. However, the referee stuck to his decision, awarded the penalty and red carded the keeper for denying a goal-scoring opportunity.
I’ve had many messages on this issue and I say here what I said to the people who contacted me – the referee’s decision is final, even though he may be wrong.
In that Asian Cup game, the players crowded around the ref gesticulating and trying to get him to check with the assistant who had his flag raised for offside.
The pressure that they attempted to put on this ref was extreme and intense. At one point, they literally boxed him in so that he could not move.
That sort of mob rule is not acceptable and should not be condoned as per my quote at the top of the page.
I hope the relevant authorities will take the appropriate action against the perpetrators to send a clear message that such thuggish behaviour cannot and will not be tolerated.
I’ve heard it said that respect is a two-way street.
Perhaps, but when a referee is attempting to arbitrate between two teams who will try every trick in the book to win a game, it’s not easy, believe me.
I’ve been there many times and without the help of the VAR, and on many other occasions without assistants on the line.
The authorities need to take decisive action against teams that transgress so that match officials can go about their work on the field with the knowledge that they will be protected on the day and, should they have reason to report a team for misbehaviour, that appropriate disciplinary action will be taken to deter them (teams/players/managers) from engaging in such intimidatory and threatening behaviour.
Then, and only then, will we be able to recruit much-needed referees and assistant referees.
Remember the saying – no referee, no game. Make up your collective minds. You can’t have it both ways.
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