In football, it doesn't just take 22 to tango, it also takes a referee, his assistants and a fourth official. This weekend, the sport in Scotland was in some disarray, with the men with the flags and whistles on strike. In place of the actual games, we offer these highlights from the history of refereeing.
In the eyes of most football fans, and if the time-honoured chant from the terraces is to be believed, the most appropriately named referee in the history of the world was the man who officiated at the 1878 FA Cup final. His name? Mr Bastard.
The most unusual suspension of play came in the 2001 Dutch First Division game between Fortuna Sittard and NEC Nijmegen, and was ordered by referee Eric Braamhaar. His surname rhymed with the slang for female private parts, and it was not long before the crowd began to incorporate this coincidence into their chants. Mr Braamhaar was most put out, stopped the game and refused to continue until the crowd apologised. Eventually, after they had exhausted all risqué possibilities, they began chanting "We are sorry", and the game continued.
Who says referees don't have a conscience? The most famous official blunder was the awarding of a goal when Diego Maradona punched the ball into the net for Argentina against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals. The referee who never saw the "hand of God" was Tunisian Ali Bin Nasser. He was later found at his hotel, crying his eyes out.
Only last week the perils of refereeing were spelt out in a case at Liverpool Crown Court. In the course of a Sunday league match in Southport last February, referee David Harkness had cause to send off one Joseph Rimmer for dissent. Mr Rimmer, who is by trade a fitness instructor and nightclub doorman, was not content to let matter lie there. He left the field, climbed into his Range Rover, drove on to the pitch and careered after the fleeing referee. He then threatened to shoot Mr Harness. Rimmer was jailed.
Cases of players attacking the ref when sent off are not uncommon, such as the Norwegian international Roy Amundsen who got a two-year ban, but not before he had broken two of the referee's ribs. Rather rarer is what the Bristol footballer Mike Bagley did when he was booked in a 1983 match. He seized the official's notebook and ate it.
Perhaps the strangest dismissal in all football was ordered by referee Gary Bailey in January. Hertford Heath were playing Hatfield Town in the quarter-final of the Hertfordshire Senior Centenary trophy. Tense stuff. Until, that is, the companion of the Hertford supporter Irene Kerrigan started to misbehave. He was Me-Tu, her Senegal parrot, who had recently perfected an impersonation of a ref's whistle. So confusing was this for the players that, eventually, Mrs K and Me-Tu were ordered from the ground. Mr Bailey said later: "This woman was standing right by the touchline and suddenly unveiled a big cage with this big green parrot in it. I didn't mind at first. But then every time I blew my whistle the bird made exactly the same sound. It was bizarre. The crowd was laughing."
Best attempt to impersonate Sherlock Holmes by a referee in a final: the Belgian Jean Langenus, who took to the field for the 1930 final between Argentina and Uruguay wearing plus-fours, a red-striped tie and a deerstalker hat.
Negotiation twixt players and refs on whether fouls should – or should not – have been given is a fruitless exercise. Never more so than in games presided over by the Brazilian referee Francisco Chaves. During a match earlier this year, one Jose Ramos da Silva felt that his side should have been awarded a free kick and made this point to Mr Chaves. Mistake. The ref reached into his black shirt, took out a knife and stabbed Da Silva, who then fell dead at his feet. The game was abandoned.
Referee Justin Amey holds the record for flourishing the swiftest red card in history. He blew his whistle to start the Southern Premier Division match between Chippenham Town and Bashley in December 2008. Away team player David Pratt made a lunging tackle and Mr Amey dismissed him – just three seconds into the game, a new world, European, and Commonwealth record.
The record for issuing the most red cards to one player in a match belongs to Andy Lyon. He was presiding over a game in the Border Amateur League last year when he sent off striker Paul Cooper of Hawick United for dissent. Instead of departing the scene, Cooper launched into a lengthy rant at Mr Lyon, who felt obliged to brandish the red card five more times. The player was banned for two years.
In March 1951, referee A H Blythe thought it a good idea to abandon a Third Division South match after 70 minutes, with Newport County leading Norwich City 5-1. The crowd was not impressed, and such was its mood that Mr Blythe had to leave the ground disguised as a St John's Ambulance man.
Few referees have ever become famous for their sense of humour, but Essex official Brian Savill is the exception. He was officiating at the one-sided local league match between Wimpole 2001 and Earls Colne. With the latter leading 18-1, Mr Savill deftly brought the ball down with his hand from a corner, and volleyed it into the net for a second consolation goal for Wimpole. He said afterwards: "I was the ref, so I didn't see the handball. I just signalled a goal and went roaring up the field. Half of the fans were standing in bewilderment; the other half were cheering."
Charles Sutcliffe, president of the Football League in the 1930s, was a one of the sport's Little Englanders. He voted to pull out of Fifa, referred to Germany, France and Austria as "midgets" and described the World Cup as "a joke". Thus it will come as no surprise that learn that, as a referee, this solicitor was a distinctly obstinate referee. In a match between Blackburn Rovers and Liverpool in the 1890s, he managed the heroic feat of disallowing no fewer than six goals.
For decades, referees cautioned players for the more serious offences, entering their names in a little book, and sent them off when they committed fouls and insubordination of a really heinous nature. Then, in the 1960s, the legendary English ref Ken Aston came up with the system of yellow and red cards. He got the idea while sitting in his car at traffic lights.
And finally, the ultimate referee, one William Weiler, who made rather a nonsense of the Paraguayan game between General Caballero and Sportivo Ameliano. Two players began fighting and he sent them off. This provoked a mêlée, which lasted for 10 minutes, at the conclusion of which Mr Weiler felt he hadt to dismiss a further 18 players. This left two on the field, which, according to the laws of the game, does not constitute a quorum, and so the match was abandoned. Exit Mr Weiler with the ball.
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