Racism Can Wait, Kick Referees Out Of Football
Note: This is a biased rant and in spite of all my attempts to be as rational as possible, there may be some unfair blame laid on referees in the following article. Any supporters of referees who would like to come forward and berate me as they wish? Thought so.
Whenever people ask me why I follow football so much, I choose from a variety of pre-made answers at random, because all of those answers sound more sensible than ‘I have no fucking clue’. One of those pre-made answers is me saying that football is like an unscripted soap opera. There’s drama, rivers of glycerine, comedy, method acting, people sleeping with other people, rifle shots and all of that sits much better with me than some weekly Gossip Girl fix. People usually fail to hear me out beyond this point as they are rendered speechless by my gall to utter such indescribably gay analogies.
If we choose to carry forward the analogy in question however, we come to the villains in the soap opera. And I mean the constant villains, not some momentary character change after which you go back to your haloed ways. These villains are universally despised as they proceed to kill innocent bystanders, mix poison in your drink, stick their tongue out at children and make drawn out death threats in slow motion. They’re Satan’s annoying distant cousin. They’re hair-pullingly, throat-cuttingly frustrating. They’re a black plague dressed in black. I think you know where I’m going with this.
Officials are not exactly loved in any sport, but football referees just take it to a whole new level. Referee incompetence is one of the few things that make players, managers, clubs and countries nod their heads in agreement. And looking at the general reluctance in football for anyone to agree on anything, I think the fact that all footballing nations would shotgun a referee without batting an eyelid is privy to the fact that referees are, in fact, shit.
Now this may be me taking a mutated view of things, but the standards of refereeing over the past season have dropped drastically from a level that was in itself modest to say the least. I realize that no human except Bergkamp can get it right every time and also that errors are part and parcel of the game, but some inconsistencies on view every second week are so glaring, some mistakes so stupid, it boggles the mind.
The last man rule. It’s ambiguously worded and referees take full advantage of it and muck around no end. While a blatant tug on a Wolves player last week when the Spurs defender was the last man was a red card, the ref only brandished a yellow. Now either be completely blind and don’t give the penalty at all, or stick to the rules (however crazy they may be) and give the offender a red card. It’s a clear goal scoring opportunity denied, no two ways about it; I don’t know what was going through the ref’s mind.
When Koscielny fouls a Newcastle player miles away from goal, it’s a red card because he’s the last man. Alright, fair enough. But when Nasri and Chamakh get upended clean through on goal in the penalty box (CC match at White Hart Lane), last man, it’s a penalty and that’s it, hands dusted. The rule leaves too much open to perception in the first place, and with the officials that we have, it only gets worse.
Let’s take Squillaci and two cases of inconsistency. During the Huddersfield game, he’s sent off for an offence similar to Koscielny’s stated above, being arguably the last man but far away from goal. During the Everton match at Goodison, he was given a yellow card for fouling Saha far closer to goal, again being arguably the last man. You could say Clichy would have covered, but that would have been stretching it. So he was given a red just to placate the loony rulebook and was given a yellow for making a tackle in a far more dangerous place from which a goal would have been more likely. Inconsistency.
Let’s go back to the Huddersfield game. Arsenal got a penalty in the 84th minute when Bendtner was fouled in the box, some ten yards away from the keeper by the last man. Now the referee, who has already given a red card to Squillaci for a foul from much farther away, gives the penalty and shows… a yellow card. Same rule in question, same game, same referee, different decision. Inconsistency. And we’ll keep having these inconsistencies.
Even if we talk about the general approach to a game that a referee takes, there are options open to him and he chooses them on his whim and fancy. He gives countless warnings to some players but books others for their first offence. He considers the time elapsed in the match before deciding the colour of the card to mete out. He gives out yellow cards for ‘disrespecting the officials’ or ‘showing dissent’ while all the time silently bearing an endless barrage of abuse from some players without moving a muscle. He lets two footed lunges pass by (Cesc against Wolves at Molineux case in point. Yes, shock horror, this is not all pro Arsenal) but gives red cards for failing to hear his whistle among 90,000 others (well you knew I would bring this in somehow). They may have their reasons for doing so; I admit that there are many factors to be taken into consideration. But all any of us is asking is some sort of standard set, some firm guidelines. The current referee barometer is set to ‘crazy’ unfortunately.
The ‘letting the player know you’re there’ tackle made famous by Allardyce and assorted acolytes is now accompanied by a ‘let the players know you’re there’ performance from the referee sometimes. They’re trigger-happy, they’re trigger-shy, they don’t see things that are obvious and they see things that only they can see. The one thing they’re not is consistent. It’s said that a referee has had a good game when you don’t notice him at all. Well I’m sad to say that referees have occupied an unnecessarily large portion of my cranium for many games this season, Arsenal and otherwise.
To be somewhat fair, the current rules hardly help the refs. But they’ve officiated enough matches and have enough experience to make the best of those rules by now, and I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say that they’re not making the best of the rules.
Maybe we need to realize that the rules need tweaking? Some minor changes at first, which lead on to more widespread changes later, for a fairer, smoother game? What say, Sepp?
So as we pan out the camera, all I can see is football, a damsel in distress, tied to the train tracks. A moustache-twirling villain is chuckling while flitting through a black rule book. The train is incoming, speeding along to me-
What? What do you mean red card? Are you fucking retarded?
Bah. I’m sorry, article over. It appears I’ve been sent off. I don’t know why, I’m sure it’ll be in the rulebook somewhere.
Note: This post also appeared on BigFourZa