Referee Abuse Must Stop

I have not written for a while and was going to make a comeback during the upcoming World Cup in Russia, but something has come to light this week which has angered me so much that I had air my views.

A video of a referee that was chased and kicked on the floor after blowing for full-time in an amateur cup final in London was released. This is without a doubt the most appalling video of an assault on a referee in the UK that I have ever seen.

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This is the worst assault on a match official we have seen on British soil.We all must stand up together or it will only get worse – Ref Support UK

 

Regardless if they offending team felt the referee had made none, 1, 2 or 50 errors during the match, this is no way to treat a referee. For too long abuse towards referees has been seemingly accepted as part of their job. Frankly this is absurd! Referees, like anybody in any job, should be able to do their job without fear of being attacked or abused.

How do we as a football community stop this trend of attacks on referees? Recently the FA has been issuing tougher penalties on professional players surrounding match officials when they disagree with a decision. This is a good first step as the youth players will often copy the traits of their favourite players, so if this type of behaviour can be stopped at the top it should eventually become good practice with the younger generation.

Another step would be to allow referees to wear body cams, or at the very least have a trial scheme so a study can take place of their effect. A camera would not stop someone attacking a referee but it would be a massive deterrent. Players would think twice about saying or doing anything knowing it will be recorded.

I spoke with Ref Support UK who issued this statement: “We believe the recent attack on a Referee in London record and sent to Ref Support UK should be treated as a watershed moment in our game to trigger a positive effective response from The Referees department of the FA. Ref Support UK have for a long time pushed for body cams to be allowed in football. We can see no reason why they are not allowed. IFAB recent law clarification on Cameras was,in our opinion, a reckless and irresponsible move that discriminates against grass roots referees. The elite games have the protection of match recording at every game hence assaults on match officials do no occur at professional level. We have asked IFAB and the FA to allow a pilot of body cams to investigate the benefits of allowing BWC. in Football” – Martin Cassidy CEO of Ref Support UK

I for one personally wholeheartedly agree with Martin Cassidy and Ref Support UK. I am not saying every referee needs to wear a body worn camera but the option should be there. I have officiated in some leagues where the decent is minimal. I have also officiated in some where you question why you decided to become a referee.

I consider myself very fortunate to have not been physically attacked whilst refereeing.  I have written before about an incident where after the game I was verbally abused by a player that I cautioned during the game because I would not put the caution through as a dismissal! One thing which was said to me was “I bet you love sticking the corner flag up your a**e” It was fairly early after qualifying as a referee, I didn’t know what to do next. I remember travelling home thinking to myself that there is no way that I can let this slide, I had to do something, this player and his teammates who shouted more abuse needed to be held accountable. I contact my County FA’s Referees Development officer who told me to send in a misconduct report but instead of stating the players name state the team name.

I was never told the outcome of my reports and I always wondered what happened to the main culprit and his team mates. Were they banned? I never found out, I think if referees were told of the out come of misconduct reports in would encourage more to send them in.

I cannot work out why at least a trial scheme hasn’t been initiated. If it’s tried and not proved successful then we can all say ‘at least it was tried’. But I can’t imagine it not being a success. The decision makers at the IFAB need to visit parks on a Saturday and Sunday and see what we have to deal with!

I urge anyone who reads this that agrees BWC are a good idea to follow Ref Support UK on Twitter or like their Facebook Page and keep up to date with their campaign.

Start As You Mean To Go On

This weekend sees the opening games of the 2016/17 Barclays Premier League. I recently wrote about the changes made to the laws of the game and as the games kicked off, I was hoping that the referees would be really hot on dealing with dissent as they have been instructed to do.

In Middlesbrough’s first game back in the top flight for 7 years two players were booked for dissent, when last season I believe nothing would have been given to them for these incidents.

First, veteran goalkeeper Shay Given was given a yellow card for running 25 yards or so, out of his area to confront referee Kevin Friend after Boro’s Ramirez had fouled Pieters. Some would say this decision is harsh but it needed to be done to show how referees are going to be dealing with dissent from now on. Lets be honest about this, there was no need for Given to speak to the referee, especially as he isn’t the captain. If the referee feels a yellow card or more is needed, he doesn’t need anyone who isn’t in his officiating team to advise him on what he needs to do.

The second incident of dissent from Middlesbrough Vs Stoke was after Arnautovic was fouled he turned towards the referee and angrily shouted something. I think it’s safe to assume that he would’ve liked the player that fouled him to have been booked or sent off. However, his petulant actions were not necessary. A free kick was awarded so he should’ve got up and got on with the game.

Having only watched highlights of this game I can’t comment on every decision but from what I did see, I have to say Kevin Friend had an excellent game in the middle. He even brought play back for a free kick when there was no advantage.

I hope all referees, not just those in the Premier League, take note of this performance. It’s important to set the marker early so that it can have a positive effect on the game.

Law Changes

With the new season getting ever closer, I thought it would be good to look at some of the changes to the laws of the game (LOTG) that the IFAB have made.

The most notable change is to Law 8, The Start and Restart of Play. The ball now no longer needs to be played forward. When refereeing young children I would sometimes have to tell them that they needed to play it into the oppositions half. Thinking about it I’ve had to tell a few adult teams too! Another change to this law is the restart at corners and free-kicks. “Clearly moves” has been added to the law so teams will no longer be able to do sly touches to catch their opponents off guard, like Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs did to Chelsea in 2009.

Another one that stands out is a change to what is being called the ‘triple punishment law’. Previously if a player player committed a foul and it denied a goal scoring opportunity he would’ve automatically been sent off. Now, if the foul is deemed to be accidental as opposed to reckless a yellow card will be enough punishment. I think this is a good change and will keep the games competitive.

When a player goes down injured, if the offending player is cautioned or sent off, the injured player does now not need to leave the field of play for quick treatment.For me this should have been changed to be under the referees control completely. A player could pick up and injury from a challenge that does not warrant a yellow or red card, but he/she may not really need to leave the pitch for treatment.

Players will no longer be booked for a handball stopping an opponent receiving possession of the ball but will be cautioned if it stops a promising attack. I can see this still causing controversy as it will be the referees opinion if the attack was going to be promising or not, and the TV pundits will have looked at 100 different camera angles to prove the referee wrong!

Also being outlawed is the last second stutter before taking a penalty, with those found guilty of the illegal feint will be shown a yellow card and an indirect free-kick awarded to the opposition. This will be interesting to see this one enforced!

 

A Top Performance From A Top Referee

There’s plenty I could talk about after week three of the Premier League. I will focus on one game and one incident in particular, West Brom Vs Chelsea and the John Terry sending off.

Usually all you here on social media and in the papers is how poor referees are and how they don’t know what they’re doing. Mark Clattenburg was the man in the middle for this Sunday afternoon game and once the final whistle had gone my first thought was that I have just seen the best refereeing performance in a long time

Every decision that he had to make was correct. He had a fair bit to deal with and wasn’t fazed by any of it. The penalty awarded to West Brom was correct. He didn’t blow for it straight away he gave himself a moment to think about it.

John Terry hasn’t had the best starts to the season and it didn’t get any better for him here. Brunt played a good ball up to Rondon and Terry was going shoulder to shoulder with the striker and just as they were about to go in to the penalty area Rondon just started to edge in front and Terry gave a little tug of his opponents arm and down the West Brom man went.

Terry receives his marching orders from Mark Clattenburg

Terry receives his marching orders from Mark Clattenburg

Some would argue that he went down a little to easy but that doesn’t mean there was no foul. Mark Clattenburg blew straight away and indicated a free kick. As he walked towards the area he would’ve been assessing what was in front of him so he could decide, if necessary, what further action was needed. It would’ve been clear to him that had the foul not occurred then Rondon would’ve had a clean shot at goal. There was nothing Clattenburg could do other than show the red card. Although I thought for a second it would only be yellow but it was just his cards sticking together.

Also Mr Clattenburg’s man management skills were superb in this game. There was a coming together between Diego Costa and Yacob, he quickly diffused the situation but calling both players plus their captains. Their heads came together at one point but he was able to deal with it with words. This isn’t always easy as sometimes players will go ‘yeah ok, whatever ref’ then the next time they’d be near each other they would be trying to have a kick, but on this occasion there was no further incidents between the two.

A fine performance by a top referee, and in my honest opinion, the best in England at the moment

New Season, New Stance From The FA

So the 2015/16 season is upon us and I heard something recently, that, as a referee, has made me very happy!

The English FA are set to fine clubs when their players surround the referee! It’s about time! I remember years ago, what is probably the most famous incident of players rounding up on a referee, players from Manchester United surrounding referee Andy D’Urso after he gave a penalty to Middlesbrough at Old Trafford, and even at the time wondered why the referee didn’t take more action!

D'Urso surrounded my Man Utd players in 2000

D’Urso surrounded my Man Utd players in 2000

It goes on far too much and I’m glad the FA are starting to act. Better late than never I suppose. I’ve always felt that referee at the very top seem to accept dissent when done in groups. Maybe they felt they had no support from the top. Now they do but I still hope for the day that a referee issues a yellow card to each member of the herd that surrounds him hurling abuse at him, then a second yellow followed by a red. If Andy D’Urso had done that Manchester United would have had 4 players sent off!

As I mentioned in my previous post I will be assessing referees for theref.co.nr and the first weekends fixtures I’ll taking a look at Michael Oliver’s game on Saturday evening, Chelsea Vs Swansea and on Sunday Anthony Taylor’s Sunday clash Stoke City Vs Liverpool. I’m looking forward to covering both games!

Chapter 20 – Uruguay Vs England

This is the hardest blog I’ve written to date.

As an Englishman I was obviously disappointed with the result, but I’m trying not to be just a fan and say the ref was rubbish and that’s the only reason England lost!

Having said that, and speaking from a referees point of view, Carlos Velasco Carballo was poor.

He correctly cautioned the Uruguayan captain Godin for handball but he should’ve cautioned him again for a foul on Daniel Sturridge. That foul in itself could’ve been a red card, had it been deemed as violent conduct. A forearm to the throat is not something I could give just a free kick for!

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The referee obviously saw it as he gave a free kick but he failed to show a second yellow card. Why? Even ex-premier league referee Mark Halsey tweeted his shock at Godin still being on the pitch!

Some referees, I include myself in this, will not want to issue an early red as it can spoil the game. I tend to be a lot stricter in the second half than I am in the first. Something I was criticised during an assessment from an FA assessor. Sometimes though, you have to if it’s an obvious one.

But it was dissent I was letting go, trying to understand the players frustration.

A little while ago I wrote a chapter titled “A foul is a foul”. In which I stated no matter where the foul takes place it’s a foul, whether it results in a free kick or penalty. The same theory applies to cautions after fouls. Dissent is a little bit different as that’s a personal tolerance level.

There was also a heavy challenge in the second half which went unpunished. Yes the ball was won, but the angle and speed the defender came in at, could’ve caused injury. As players safety is the referees primary concern.

Steven Gerrard was correctly cautioned for a foul. Although at the time I shouted at my tele something along the lines of “get up! That’s never a foul!” Having seen the replays I must give credit where credits due and say that was a good decision.

The game finished with 1 booking for each side. There should’ve been a few more, and not just for Uruguay!

Ref rating 5/10

Chapter 19 – Cameroon Vs Croatia

Why do professional footballers act so stupid when playing in the biggest tournament of their careers? I am of course referring to the red card issued to Cameroon’s Alex Song in this group A clash.

I can almost understand a reaction like Pepe’s the other night. Furious with an opponents play acting that could lead to him being sent off that he angrily confronts that opponent and get gets carried away. Stupid, but almost understandable. Certainly not excusable.

However, the most stupid moment of the World Cup so far has to go to Alex Song.

With 5 minutes to go to the break, Cameroon must’ve been wishing for the halftime whistle to come as quickly as possible so they could regroup and try to come back from being 1-0 down. But then comes the moment that pretty much hands the win and 3 points to Croatia.

With a ball being played over the halfway line to the left hand side by Croatia, Mandzukic runs up the pitch to offer his support in the attack. He is closely followed by Alex Song. Who, for reasons known only to the Cameroon player, strikes Mandzukic in the back. The referee was in the perfect position no more than 20 yards away with a clear view.

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Possibly the easiest decision the Portuguese referee Pedro Proenca will make this summer!

There was also and incident in the last few minutes where Assou-Ekotto and Moukandjou had a disagreement and heads where shoved in Pepe style and they were pulled apart by fellow players. It was a good job the referee missed it or there could’ve been a couple more red cards!

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With the exception of the opening game, I think the standard of refereeing in this tournament has been very good. Having said that players like Song and Pepe are not exactly making life difficult for the officials!

Ref rating 7/10

Chapter 16 Spain Vs Holland

We all thought this would be a close physical game. It was definitely physical but not so close!

The penalty awarded to Spain in the first half was a good decision. It was an honest attempt by the De Vrij to get the ball but Costa turned him then jumped out the way of the challenge, as he landed Dutch player slid into him bringing him down.

Where I would like to give the referee credit is how he dealt with an off the call incident that he didn’t see. Replays show Diego Costa moving his head toward Martins Indi, although the contact was minimal had the referee seen it I’m sure he would have sent Spain player off.

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When this type of thing happens it can be difficult for the referee to deal with. The difference between amateur referees and the professionals is the pros have radio communications. But if the nearest assistant hasn’t seen it then you have angry player to calm down as you explain no one saw him receiving a head butt!

The only way to deal with this is to reassure the player that had you seen it, you would be sending the player off and offer further assurance that you will keep an eye on that player for the rest of the fans to watch out for his off the ball antics.

Referees are aware that off the ball incidents happen all the time. But if it’s not seen or heard then it can’t be dealt with. Stepping on toes, pinching, pushing/pulling, grabbing shirts are a number of things that go on in the box during set pieces but players are cleaver in the way they do it so the officials can’t see it but see the player reacting.

But the referee took his time in explaining his view and the Dutch player seemed to be calm afterwards and that was the end of it. Sometimes it can bit tit for tat until someone is sent off so for that to be avoided was good refereeing.

Ref rating 8/10

Chapter 10 – On the line

Yesterday I was involved in my first game for a few months. I was an assistant referee (or lino if you prefer) in an under 18s match.

I really enjoy being a linesman, although I feel it’s a much harder job than being the referee in the middle.

As a referee you can almost choose your position, as the assistant you have to be inline with the second last defending player. You also have to know where the attacking player who is receiving the ball was when the ball was played. If when watching on the tele you think it looks easy, may I suggest the next time you see a Sunday league match taking place, offer to have the flag and see for yourself.

I arrived nice and early and had a look at the conditions. The pitch looked good and the weather seemed to be ok, then just as we were about to come out of the changing rooms the heavens opened!

20140327-085909.jpgme during the game

The game was played in a really good spirit from the start. The home keeper made a great save tipping a long range effort on to the bar. Overall I would say the game was fairly even apart from the away team took their chances eventually winning 4-1, a scoreline I felt was a little harsh.

There was the usual disagreement with the odd decision by the referee but he wasn’t constantly bothered by either team and was allowed to control the game. I must praise both teams on their attitude, especially the home side. I’ve seen all to often, a team starts to concede a few goals and there discipline goes out the window, not on this occasion. They continued to play a good game. No rash tackles, no off the ball incidents and no verbal abuse to opposing players or us officials.

Dispute the rain and it being very cold it was an enjoyable afternoon.

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Please check out http://www.refereesworld.co.uk a great referee pod which this month looks at the importance of the RA (Refereees Association)