Football referees need respec t – and new technology

Rugby’s example shows the way to stem the tide of unacceptable abuse

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The Independent Online

New year, old story. The referee’s still a wanker. Football’s inability to grasp the point regarding the treatment of officials is as depressing as the abuse of referees itself.

Yes, it was a bad New Year’s Day for Premier League referees who made some poor errors but as long as the default position of managers, players and supporters is to blame and harangue, there is no hope of progress.

It has been said many times but bears repetition. In an atmosphere where respect for office and dignity are central to the enterprise it is perfectly possibly to administer a game from the middle in front of 80,000-plus partisan fans and get decisions right.

It is significant that rugby union pursues an enlightened course regarding technology, which helps no end in determining the accuracy of decisions. The camera is not fool-proof but it removes the doubt in most cases.

Even before match officials had recourse to a set of electronic eyes in the stands, rugby adhered to a code of conduct that made refereeing not only possible but a pleasure. In this environment outcomes are correct by definition, rectitude conferred by the authority invested in the role. What chance does the man with the whistle have of reaching the best decision in football when he is surrounded by a posse of baying boneheads either pleading innocence or demanding blood?

Not only is this bear-pit culture a bar to effective refereeing in the immediacy of the moment, but in the wider context too since it pollutes the atmosphere in which officials work.  Over on the touchline the behaviour of the players is widely endorsed by a manager or coach spewing invective.

Since the authorities are either unwilling or unable to change the culture of the game, then the widespread introduction of technology is the obvious route to take, including the miking-up of referees to help facilitate our understanding of the decisions taken.

While they are at it, the governing bodies might dish out a few deterrents, such as the docking of points for repeat dissenters. Clubs might be less inclined to indulge in puerile bias were it to cost them a title or their status in the division.

It’s 2015, fellas, time to take a stand against the kind of behaviour we would not tolerate in a child.

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