Johannesburg - Many people have said that referees have too much power – almost to the point of being dictatorial; that they seem to be a law unto themselves sometimes. This may be the case, but when you’re out there with two teams that are not only on opposite sides of the field of play, but probably have opposing opinions when it comes to decisions made by the match official, it’s understandable.
Law 5 of the Fifa Laws of the Game states:
The authority of the referee:
“Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match".
Decisions of the referee:
“Decisions will be made to the best of the referee’s ability according to the Laws of the Game and the ‘spirit of the game’, and will be based on the opinion of the referee who has the discretion to take appropriate action within the framework of the Laws of the Game.
“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.
“The decisions of the referee and all other match officials must always be respected".
The last part of the above paragraph, which says “the decisions of the referee and other match officials must be respected”, is, quite honestly, a joke.
Just like the hypocrisy of shaking hands before the game begins is a joke.
You’ve seen it, and so have I.
Best of ability
The game is no more than seconds old and the players are questioning decisions, trying to get one another yellow or red carded, and engaging in leg-breaking tackles that have, in some instances, left their fellow professionals hospitalised and out of the game for weeks or months.
Remember the World Cup qualifier between Wales and the Republic of Ireland last year? Irish captain Séamus Coleman had his leg broken in two places, requiring several operations and months of rehabilitation.
He returned to full training only this week – nearly nine months after the incident.
Getting back to refs and apologies.
There is nothing in the Laws of the Game that says referees have to, or are obliged to, either explain or apologise for any decision they make.
As stated above, they make the decision to the best of their ability and within the framework of the Laws of the Game.
With the exception of a few, referees do not go out to deliberately cheat a team. I know we had the high-profile game between South Africa and Senegal when the referee was found to have deliberately awarded South Africa a penalty and was rightly banned for life. He and one or two more are the exception to the rule.
In a recent high-profile game in the English Premier League between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal, referee Mike Dean, an experienced and former Fifa referee, apologised to Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger for awarding a penalty against the Gunners.
I can only assume that pressure was brought to bear on the match official to issue this apology.
The problem now is that the floodgates will open and every time a referee makes a decision that appears to be controversial or, dare I say dubious, an apology of some sort will be not only requested, but demanded.
Remember that Wenger was recently fined £40 000 (R675 000) and banned from the touchline for three games after his outburst at a referee’s decision.
Will that now be queried and perhaps overturned?
Incidentally, it isn’t stated in the Laws of the Game that even a captain can seek an explanation or reason for decisions made, despite notions to the contrary?
I state again that 99% of match officials work hard to try to acquaint themselves with the Laws of the Game, and they do a very unthankful and difficult job.
The rewards at the top level are good, especially when they get to the Fifa International panel. There’s lots of travel to various countries and possible participation in the World Cup or Olympic Games.
For the rest, there is the usual Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning game with little or no reward, where the match fee wouldn’t even cover the cost of your petrol to the game.
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