Referees – required but not respected 

Looking at the recent FA report into a survey conducted to gauge the effectiveness of their Respect programme, its no surprise that nearly two-thirds of referees who responded say they experience verbal abuse at games on a regular basis.

What’s even more disturbing is that almost 20% say they have experienced physical abuse.

This is just so sad. 

Yet the perpetrators of the abuse would have no qualms about justifying their actions, when in fact there is no justification of any of it, none whatsoever. Actions that would, in all likelihood, get a person dismissed at workaday life, are deemed acceptable by some in the game.

We’ve all seen reports of officials being assaulted within the game at grassroots level, yet little is done. 

The FA’s Respect campaign does appear to be working in the higher echelons of the game but on a Sunday morning and the lower levels of Saturday afternoon football, you can regularly hear all kinds of gross obscenity hurled at the referee because they haven’t made the wanted decision.

Many times, the offender is showing his or her ignorance of the laws, and often the referee is right. I often take time, when sharing the press box with a referee’s assessor, to ask questions and its quite enlightening to have a discussion on the laws of the game. Plus a chat after with the officials in the boardroom, which I am fortunate to be able to do, can be even more interesting.

A lot of the times, players and clubs take referees for granted but their actions – often explained away by ‘heat of the moment’ – are in danger of driving away the very officials that are needed at grassroots levels and higher for the many thousand of matches played every week.

Don’t forget, the referee make his decision on what he sees and only that. The view that we, the players, officials and fans have is not the same and its crazy to think you you are right and have a better understanding of the laws of the game over the referee, who is trained, tested and assessed to a high level.

You may think think you’re getting a rough deal some days, but its a fact of life in football that we always think that fouls committed on our players are worse than the ones our team commits. It’s inevitable.

If you can’t control yourself on the field of play, then don’t play. Cautions for a foul, that’s part of the game and unless it’s deliberately malicious, it can be allowed for. But to get a yellow card for dissent, it’s inexcusable, self-inflicted and it’s hurting the team. To get your second for the same and thus getting sent off is even sillier.

Respect is a two way thing; the players have to respect the officials and in return, the officials appreciate that and return it. They are people, like you and me, it’s a shame more don’t remember that. They are not perfect, however without them there is no game. Remember that if you play.

I realise this essay will not be appreciated by many of the players I know, but think on it. I might even be right, for once!
BBC Sport


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