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Time to Shield Referees?

by Ashley Morrison on Nov 02, 2011

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Who would be a referee? Is there a bigger drop-out rate in any other job in any other industry?

Most of us who have followed the game have questioned their decisions, even at times their parentage, but without them the game would never survive. Gone are the days of integrity and honesty in football.

It was the Corinthians at the turn of the last century, who if they won a penalty that they felt was unjust would deliberately shoot wide, or if a justified penalty was given against them, their goalkeeper would leave his goal untended. Can we honestly see that in this day and age? More importantly would we want to?

The men in black/green/yellow have to be thick-skinned to continue turn up to work each week knowing that they may well suffer another torrent of abuse, even if they are right. While coaches, fans and commentators can pore over their decisions with replays, some often not knowing the intricacies of the laws of the game, few have the right of reply.

The consistency in the refereeing is at times questionable, but the only way we can improve on this is to educate the officials. The appointment of Mark Shield as Director of referees is an excellent one. Here at the top of the pyramid is a man who has refereed at the highest level and who has the respect of the fans, the players and his fellow referees.

Are we however making the life of a referee harder than it need be?

Every weekend refereeing decisions are being discussed around the country during and after games. ‘Was so-and-so offside’, ‘did that challenge really warrant a yellow card let alone a red’?

FFA has requested that all Hyundai A-League clubs have a big screen at their grounds to enhance the match day experience. Is this really necessary? Before the days of the big screen and replays, fans spent 90 minutes watching the game, because they did not want to miss anything. Now they will go to the bar and know that if a goal is scored they can catch it on a replay somewhere in the ground.

Are the big screens in fact putting more pressure on referees, and are they not possibly putting the official in a position of danger?

Replays of contentious decisions have been shown on screens at live games and have undoubtedly infuriated sections of the fans. In some cases the referee’s assistants have looked up and seen that the man in the middle has made a mistake, which again does not help them with their focus on the game in hand.

Having delved into this issue I have been advised that the decision on whether replays will be shown on the big screens within the stadium remains with the respective event organiser. Despite what many may believe there are no such general rules by FIFA.

The Victory has had a policy of not showing anything controversial in the past, but every challenge was shown at the recent derby - Ed

FIFA in fact started showing replays at the 2006 FIFA World Cup on the big screens in the stadia. The decision to show ‘replays of non-controversial scenes was taken to enhance the fan experience in the stadiums.’

However the game’s governing body does have “detailed guidelines for the giant screen operator not to show controversial scenes which could provoke security issues inside the stadium.”

These guidelines applicable for FIFA's competitions were developed in cooperation with FIFA's refereeing department. Nothing ugly has happened to a referee in the Hyundai A-League yet, but let us hope that Mark Shield can work with the giant screen operators here in Australia and educate them as to what they should and shouldn’t show, so that they too have detailed guidelines.

It would appear that many operators in fact have very little feel for the game and the consequences of showing some replays.

Surely this has to be done sooner rather than later to ensure that on a match day the referee at the game is allowed to do his job to the best of his ability and without having to second guess replays that players and fans can see in seconds.