The Referee's a.. perfectly respectable man?
Imagine that you turn up for work tomorrow in your best pale green shirt, perfectly ironed, and topped off by your favourite fancy tie, which you spent more money on than you care to tell people. You’re feeling pretty sharp, and ready to take on the challenges of the day ahead, only to be knocked back on your arrival by a chorus of fat middle aged men, chanting ‘who’s the wanker in the green’ in your direction. This is not just what Toby faces every Monday morning, but is in fact one that faces football referees around the country on a daily basis.
It was only 3 years ago that this was noted by the FA, who in turn introduced the ‘respect’ campaign, which can still be seen emblazoned on the sleeves of Gattuso as he strangles Harry Redknapp’s assistant, Joe Jordan. (In his defence, nowhere in the respect campaign does it mention opposition staff, and he didn’t lay a hand on the referee.) Don’t get me wrong, the respect campaign, intended to raise awareness of the difficulty referees face on your average Saturday afternoon, sent all the right messages. However, not since Wayne Rooney in a brothel have I seen something come and go quite so fast. The campaign now only exists as another logo on the already cluttered football shirt, providing no other use than to push football players one step closer to becoming glorified, spitting, diving, billboards.
Referees in fact gain any multiple of 0 in terms of actual respect, and this isn’t just from fans, in fact it is mostly the players and their behaviour on the pitch. Frustration at a decision or questioning the referee is one thing, but what we see time and time again is top level professionals screaming expletives at 1 of only 3 officials on the pitch, at a distance of 3 centimetres away from his face. Not only is this disgraceful behaviour, but it is also seems to me to be even easier to sort out than West Ham’s dilemma of not being able to score goals when Carlton Cole is playing as a lone striker.
Let’s start basic shall we? Any time that Ashley Cole decides it would be a good idea to hurl an expletive at the referee; that’s a yellow card. The next time Tom Huddlestone decides to use his 19 stone physique to stand menacingly close to the referee; that’s also a caution. Immediately, the other 21 players on the pitch are going to take note and straighten up quicker than a gay devote Christian caught looking at David Beckham’s package. This really isn’t rocket science, gentlemen. There’s a reason that, for the most part, players no longer take their shirts off to celebrate a goal. That reason is because no matter how ridiculous the rule itself is, if that rule is enforced with enough conviction, it will stick better than my ‘lucky sock’ would to a window.
Now, I’m assuming that by now we, as a population, have realised that Rugby is a ridiculous and pointless sport. I mean come on, passing the ball backwards to go forwards, what kind of life lesson does that teach? But let’s face it, when it comes to refereeing and ‘respect’, they dwarf football in a way that only Aaron Lennon stood next to Peter Crouch in a post match shower will fully understand. This week in Egg chasing saw the referee wrongly allow the county of Wales to score a try against the district of Ireland, when using the wrong shaped ball.. or something along those lines. Had this had happened in the premier league, the referee would have been strung up by his ankles and marched through the village of Hull, whilst Dean Windass danced naked in front of his eyes, just 3 centimetres away from his face. In rugby however, the referee has since been defended.
In a radical, but not at all even remotely radical, move, I suggest that football move as soon as possible to introducing the ‘only the team captain is allowed to talk to the referee’ rule. That way, no dubious bookings committee need be introduced to decide if shouting ‘Fuck you, Ref, you fucking Wanker, I’m gonna come over there and fucking punch you in the head, you Twat’ is deemed as threatening behaviour warranting a booking, as (hopefully) the captain of the team would take his responsibility more seriously, and no one else is allowed to approach the ref. As a now famed Meerkat once announced, is this not ‘Simples’? Another positive of this system would be the immediate promotion of Jack Wilshere to Arsenal Captain status, as the only player able to speak the same language of the officials. Until then, players will continue to ‘respect’ the referee in the same manner as they do every weekend, whilst under 12 park teams will continue to act like Didier Drogba in attempt to rein act what they view as the top level of their favourite sport.
I’m sure however the FA would be far more open to the idea of introducing ‘I’m the referee, give me a break, give me a KitKat’ logos on the back of the new all red officiating top, and see how that gets on.