Absa Premiership

Referees are nobody’s friends

2017-11-26 06:03
Errol Sweeney. (Supplied)

Johannesburg - I firmly believe that if you sell your honesty, you sell your soul – and if you sell your soul, you have nothing left.

I inherited that view from my parents, who raised us to be upfront about everything. If you make a mistake, admit it. After all, we are human and humans make mistakes.

In football today, it appears that honesty and integrity are merely words. Winning seems to be the only goal (excuse the pun) for players and coaches alike.

Spirit of friendship

The sight of players trying to hoodwink match officials is not only despicable, but also disgusting and very, very deliberate. There is no doubt that it is pre-planned and that a winning mentality permeates the entire sporting world, especially soccer.

Players fall down at the slightest touch; they hold their faces even though they have been tripped; they writhe in agony on the ground until the poor referee gives them a free kick or a penalty kick. Then, suddenly, we see a miraculous recovery.

They run to the referee, gesticulating that they want a yellow or red card issued to an opponent, yet, only minutes earlier, they shook hands with that same opponent in a spirit of friendship. Such hypocrisy!

How many times have we seen players crowd around the whistle man in a bid to get him to change his mind because they perceive their team or team-mate to have been unjustifiably fouled, and seek to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents? (I say “him” in this instance because it rarely, if ever, happens in the women’s game).

So much for fair play.

Make decisions

It is not only the players and coaches who are at fault – match officials take no action in dealing with such behaviour.

I have said many times before that I do not criticise referees for what they are doing. The criticism is for what they are not doing – and some are plainly not doing their job.

Their job is to arbitrate between two teams, according to the Fifa Laws of the Game, without fear or favour – regardless of who is playing or what the occasion is. The Spanish word for referee is ‘arbitro’, so you see where arbitrate comes from.

We are not called the man or woman in the middle for nothing. We are in the middle to make decisions based on what we see on the day and at the time that it happens.

I often say we referees should be called reactionaries. We see a situation and we react to it and make a decision to the best of our ability on what we see at the time. We don’t get a second chance to view it – although that day is coming, thanks to the introduction of the video assistant referee system. And the sooner it happens, the better.

Mentored several referees

Referees should be tough enough to deal with any situation. Refereeing is not for everyone – it takes courage and fortitude. You are nobody’s friend, nor should you be. We must remain neutral and impartial at all times.

My advice to match officials is simple: do the job you’re being paid for. If it is not for you or you don’t have a thick skin, take up some other sport.

Now, to those of you who are wondering who this fellow is who wants to lecture us on football rules, allow me to introduce myself.

I lived and worked in South Africa for 14 years during the 1980s and 1990s. I have been involved in soccer refereeing, actively and administratively, since the 1970/71 season in Ireland and continued to do so, uninterrupted, until 1990.

The late Kgomotso “Tso” Modise then asked me to take charge of refereeing in the National Soccer League and, in 1996, I was roped in as general manager in charge of referees in the Premier Soccer League (PSL). I retired in 1998 and went back to Ireland.

I have trained and mentored several referees who went on to officiate at World Cups. Some are still active in the PSL today.

In this regular column, we are going to deal with the laws of the game and the controversial incidents that happen during matches. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

Read more on:    fifa  |  psl  |  referees  |  johannesburg  |  soccer

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Free State Stars v SuperSport United, Goble Park 19:30
Mamelodi Sundowns v Maritzburg United, Loftus Versfeld Stadium 19:30
Friday, 15 December 2017
Cape Town City FC v AmaZulu FC, Cape Town Stadium 20:00
Saturday, 16 December 2017
Mamelodi Sundowns v Bloemfontein Celtic, Loftus Versfeld Stadium 15:30
Chippa United v Polokwane City, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 15:30
Free State Stars v Orlando Pirates, Goble Park 18:00
Wits v Platinum Stars, Bidvest Stadium 20:15
Kaizer Chiefs v Ajax Cape Town, Moses Mabhida Stadium 20:15
Team P W PTS
Previous Results

Date Home Team Result Away Team

Do you think SAFA made the right choice in appointing Stuart Baxter as head coach of Bafana Bafana?

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter


The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.