Referees, they’re not worth the hassle

Howard WebbWho is your favourite referee? If your club had a really big game tomorrow, who would you like to officiate it?

If you can answer either of the questions above, then you and I are at odds. If you can and wish to answer the questions, then the desire of refs to be more than just the humble whistlemen (seen but rarely heard) who make the game possible has found an ally.

Me, I’ve no interest in refs. The day I start recognising them, cursing the fact that they are officiating at certain games and remembering contentious decisions they made in the past is the day I give in to the Polls and the Halseys of this world and give credence to their belief that they can be more than just officials.

Poll and Halsey – ok, yes, I know them. Although, despite the hullabaloo, I’d still probably struggle to recognise Halsey on a match day without a caption. Webb, Collina – baldingly easy to recall. Clive Thomas – anyone of a particular vintage would remember him – the Clough of refereeing. And the fella with the beard, Mike something. There. That’s it. The referees I know. I didn’t really want to know them. I don’t want to know any more, I don’t need to know any more.

But clearly these days, many refs want you to recognise them.  They have become like Richard Keys – believing that in some way they have become part of the attraction of the game. TV coverage has fed this belief, of course, insisting that we need to hear tedious explanations from refs, repeating ad nauseum decision after decision, allowing cameras to  linger on refs at half and full time as they high five their assistant referee chums. FIFA and all the leagues and associations too are partly culpable – outfitting them in look at me, fancy dan, colouredy kits. No wonder their opinion of themselves has become so inflated. The celeb ref blight can be removed by denying them the oxygen of media coverage they so crave!

Football fans can play a key part here by purging themselves of their own obsession with refereeing decisions. Trying to accept that refs make their decisions in good faith and that sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong is liberating. Failing to do so leaves you open to conspiracy theorists and those who insist that many refs are bent, stupid or both.  That kind of thinking and those kinds of thinkers always bewilder me. You know – fans with dossiers and elephantine memories who can list off ref after ref who in their minds f*cked them over and who throw their hands in the air when they see who will be officiating at their club’s next match.  How can these people enjoy football anymore if they expend so much energy worrying about the leanings of the ref? And if you are convinced refs are bogus, how can you watch the game at all?

Refs are important. Refs must be respected. Refs are human beings – prone to mistakes like any mortal. Accept these things, and park them. Then ignore the referees, and maybe they will go away for a bit.

Author Details

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

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