Aussie ref­er­ees take a stand

CityPress - - Sport - Er­rol Sweeney [email protected]­press, Fol­low me on Twit­ter @dr_er­rol

In the past year I have writ­ten about and com­mented on the var­i­ous types of abuse to which our match of­fi­cials have been and still are be­ing sub­jected. The most re­cent one was when my name­sake Daniel Sweeney (again, no re­la­tion) was se­verely as­saulted by four thugs af­ter a game here in Ire­land.

This week ref­er­ees in the top tier of foot­ball in Aus­tralia de­cided to take a stand and cov­ered up the “re­spect” badge on their uni­form.

This came about as a re­sult of com­ments made by Welling­ton Phoenix coach Mark Ru­dan a few weeks pre­vi­ously. The ref­er­ees had had enough and de­cided to use the game be­tween Bris­bane Roar and Mel­bourne Vic­tory to high­light their cause.

In a post–match in­ter­view Ru­dan crit­i­cised the Video As­sis­tant Ref­eree (VAR) sys­tem and also ref­eree Adam Kersey for send­ing off one of his play­ers.

He claimed the de­ci­sion “couldn’t have been more one-sided”.

“If he [the ref­eree] can sleep well at night, good on him. He’s cost us, he cer­tainly has. My big­gest dis­ap­point­ment is for my play­ers right now be­cause we de­served three points against the league lead­ers.”

The spine­less, gut­less ad­min­is­tra­tors at Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion Aus­tralia failed to sanc­tion Ru­dan for his out­burst.

The ref­er­ees made it clear that if no ac­tion was taken they would cover up their “re­spect” badges. They did so at the next round of fix­tures. Good for them.

Na­tional asso­ciations will tell you that ref­er­ees come un­der their con­trol and that is cor­rect, ac­cord­ing to Fifa.

Where then is the pro­tec­tion for the refs when they are con­tin­u­ally sub­jected to abuse and even threats?

Where is the as­so­ci­a­tion when ref­er­ees’ safety and some­times their lives are threat­ened? Where is the as­so­ci­a­tion when the refs and par­tic­u­larly the 4th of­fi­cials are con­stantly be­ing bom­barded with ver­bal diar­rhoea dur­ing the game? They are con­spic­u­ously ab­sent. I am wit­ness­ing more in­stances in which the 4th of­fi­cial on the touch­line is ques­tioned, ha­rassed and some­times ver­bally as­saulted be­cause of a de­ci­sion by the ref­eree or his as­sis­tant.

The 4th of­fi­cial is in the fir­ing line and an easy tar­get. My ques­tion is – why are they al­low­ing them­selves to be abused like this and why are they even at­tempt­ing to se­cond-guess the ref’s de­ci­sion?

Only re­cently we had a club owner use al­leged racist com­ments at a ref­eree in South Africa be­cause of a dis­agree­ment over a par­tic­u­lar in­ci­dent. It is al­leged the ref­eree was pre­vented or ob­structed from leav­ing the ground af­ter the game.

This is ap­palling and un­ac­cept­able. The more the au­thor­i­ties stand back and do noth­ing, the more these hooli­gans mas­querad­ing as coaches/ man­agers will con­tinue their non­sense.

There is a fa­mous say­ing by an Ir­ish po­lit­i­cal philoso­pher called Ed­mund Burke: “All that is re­quired for evil to pre­vail is that good men do noth­ing.”

The main prob­lem, as I see it, is that there is no proper rep­re­sen­ta­tion for ref­er­ees at na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion level in South Africa. There is a head of depart­ment but does he have power? If so, what are his pow­ers and is he ex­er­cis­ing them?

In a sim­i­lar way, the English ref­er­ees are “hamstrung” by petty, pedan­tic, soc­cer politi­cians who, if the truth be known, are more in­ter­ested in pro­tect­ing their own po­si­tions. Ref­er­ees, as we’ve al­ways been, are a nec­es­sary evil.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to the Aussie refs for the stand they’ve taken and I hope it will yield the de­sired re­sults.

Other coun­tries could take a leaf out of their book and put an end, once and for all, to the abuse of match of­fi­cials, which is un­nec­es­sary and un­de­served.

I’d like to take this op­por­tu­nity to thank all my read­ers and wish you a very merry Christ­mas and a peace­ful new year.

Happy Whistling!

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