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'Ref, I have a right!'

I find it amazing, the number of players who believe they have the right to engage with a referee or assistant referee on decisions made on the field of play.

More and more the decisions of the match officials are being questioned, debated, and sometimes vociferously contested by all participants with true ignorance.

Well as the saying goes “ignorance is bliss”.

Let me state here and now, and let there be no misunderstanding, no one has the right to question a referee or an assistant referee on their decisions. Not the player, not the captain, not the manager – no one.

Law 5 of the Fifa Laws of the Game states quite clearly (page 25 of the current issue):

  • “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 referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.”

Now I’ve deliberately put it in bold so that there can be no misunderstanding.

The Laws of the Game are a module on every coaching course, as far as I know, (certainly was when I took my coaching badge). So therefore the question has to be asked:

  • Why are players constantly haranguing referees when decisions go against them?
  • Why are coaches/managers verbally abusing match officials from their respective dugouts?
  • Who told the captain that he has a right to “enquire” (I use the term advisedly) when he feels his team has been wrongly penalised.

In a recent World Cup qualifying game the captain of the Republic of Ireland, Robbie Keane, was cautioned (yellow card) for insisting that he had a right to enquire as to why the referee had made certain decisions that affected his team.

The referee obviously had had enough and decided to issue the sanction. It wasn’t a bad tempered game. In fact it was quite tame by some standards. However the referee deemed it appropriate to issue the yellow card.

Perhaps it was the way Robbie Keane had approached the referee. Maybe it was some utterance that the referee took offence to, or it might have been so persistent throughout the game that the referee felt enough was enough.

Be that as it may, and regardless of the circumstances, the fact is that no one has the right to question the referee.

  • I’m sure there will be those who’ll say that the referee has too much authority.
  • I’ve no doubt that some will say that referees act like dictators when administering sanctions.
  • Others will say that, like in rugby, the captain should be allowed to approach the referee and “discuss” the circumstances and motivations for certain decisions that they feel aggrieved by.

Personally I don’t have a problem, so long as it’s done in a gentlemanly and respectful way. The real danger here is that when a referee gives his decision the issue becomes a debate and everyone wants to have their say.

In rugby, the referee gives his decision to the captain and that’s the end of it.

In soccer everyone wants to have their say and the issue gets out of hand.

Until such time as Fifa change that particular law, the status quo remains and players should get on with it. Most, if not all, referees will not change their minds.

Happy whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
aka “The Hanging Judge”
email: thehangingjudge88@gmail.com
Twitter: @dr_errol

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