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Referee ‘vultures’ are gathering

I’ve said it many times before and I will repeat it again in case some have not heard or read it.

Referees are human and humans make mistakes. Sorry for being human.

The performance by referee Daniel Bennett from South Africa in the Tunisia v Togo game last week is being roundly criticised by many people. Some of the criticism is justified as he did make a few mistakes that, according to the “experts”, nearly cost Togo their place in the quarterfinals.

Please remember when you criticise that you need to be objective, unbiased and fair.

Please remember when you criticise that there are enormous pressures that come with being an international referee performing his/her duties on a continental and sometimes world stage.

Please remember when you criticise that match officials are on a hiding to nothing every time they blow their whistle or wave their flag because someone is going to feel aggrieved.

That may appear to be in defence of Daniel Bennett but it’s not. It’s in defence of all referees and their assistants who perform an unthankful and unrewarding job and without whom there will be no game.

Having said all that, it also has to be said that there are some of our colleagues who are still blowing their whistles and waving their flags who are not clean and those cases are well documented.

I know there was an Egyptian referee who was sent home from the Afcon because of a “dubious” penalty he awarded to Zambia.

I’d like to know who decided it was dubious?

I’d like to know, on what authority was he removed from the tournament?

I’d like to know what evidence there is to substantiate his removal from the panel of referees and sent home AND at whose behest?

The need for more resources to be put into match officiating is long overdue. The very people in authority, who are the first to point fingers, are the same ones who drag their feet when the aforementioned resources are requested.

They expect our men and women-in-black to perform a very difficult job with little or no training in comparison to what the national team receives.

They pour millions into so-called development programmes for soccer at grass roots level.

They make sure they get their photo in the paper opening a new pitch here and a new stadium there but the people who matter, or so we are led to believe – the referees – are always found wanting.

My message to soccer politicians, club owners, coaches, newspaper scribes and fans is the following:

  • Stop whinging when your team is affected by what you perceive to be a bad refereeing decision.
  • Try taking up a refereeing course and see how much your really know about the Laws of the Game.
  • Educate yourself on the interpretations of the Laws of the Game as set out by Fifa.
  • Tell your players to start behaving themselves and stop their deliberate cheating by diving in the penalty area or looking to get their fellow professionals yellow-carded or sent off.
  • Let’s have some honesty in the game and maybe the referees will have an easier time in trying to carry out a very difficult task in sometimes extremely difficult circumstances.

I’m not saying all match officials are clean – not at all - but the vast majority are. Let’s give them some space and credit for what they do – trying to arbitrate between two teams of overpaid, spoiled, and extremely arrogant people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goal (excuse the pun).

If that means crucifying the match officials in the process then so be it.

I call on my former colleagues to implement the Laws of the Game without fear or favour and regardless of the game, competition or competitor.

Happy Whistling
Dr. Errol Sweeney
twitter: @dr_errol

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