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Jack: Players should stop blaming refs and start helping them

Kristian Jack
3/24/2014 12:56:09 PM
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The negativity, anger and frustration leaped off the pages.

The mood following the weekend's matches was dictated by the headlines that screamed loudly at the reader before the article was even perused.

'Ronaldo hits out at the ref'.

'Wenger puzzled by the decision'.

Inside the stories told a much deeper story. "Maybe they don't want Real Madrid to win this Liga," said Ronaldo after his side lost 4-3 to Barcelona in Sunday's El Clasico.

Just what we need, another accusation that a referee wanted a team to win over another.

It was supposed to be a weekend where two of the elite games of the European football calendar could be digested, enjoyed in a way that entertainment is supposed to be sampled.

Chelsea were sensational against a hapless, under-prepared Arsenal and Barcelona were just a little bit better than a fantastic Real Madrid in a game played at a breathtaking pace.

There were so many storylines to get into, or so you would think.

Instead many of the headlines were about a man who didn't even play.

The game is officially out of control.

Andre Marriner's incorrect decision to send off Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was unfortunate but shouldn't be surprising given the amount of players who crowded around him the moment a penalty kick was given.

El Clasico referee Alberto Undiano Malenco, who made a number of big decisions including a sending off and the awarding of three penalty kicks, was also asked to make split second decisions with players in his face.

Many of those players were the greatest in the world but are also the greatest at playacting and conning officials to get one over on the other team, yet when things do not go their way they want to know why the official 'got it wrong'.

Except he may not be wrong at all. If he is guilty of something, he is guilty of seeing something different to the accuser.

Sometimes, like Marriner at Stamford Bridge, (for the second time this season I might add) he is very wrong and then the real people who lose out are those who follow the game so closely.

The greatest thing, for me, about the supposed 'beautiful game' has always been how much emphasis is given on what happens on the field between the players.

Go to any pub close to a football ground and listen to the conversations about their favourite team. So often, these fans are not blinded towards their own players. Instead, they are as educated as the people sitting in the press box being paid to cover the sport. They talk about tactics, position switches and refer to their encyclopedic mind when referring to past games.

They do not talk about a sport they love by referencing point spreads or how many fantasy points they got that week. Yes, gambling and fantasy sports play a part in their fandom but it is not at the top of their list of priorities like it is fans of other sports.

There is so much that happens for them to analyze during 90 minutes that they can, and do, talk about the game for a week until they watch another one.

This is what should be happening after Chelsea 6 Arsenal 0 and Real Madrid 3 Barcelona 4.

It will be hard to find any games played at such a high level (by three of the four teams anyway) this year than those. And, yes, I am aware it is a World Cup year.

Some of the skill on display in those games was absolutely absorbing as was the pace and tempo.

Yet, while we watch such brilliance no thought is given to the referee in the middle of it all until we expect him to make a split second correct decision to ensure fairness.

It is an utterly irrational expectation.

Here is a game played by 22 of the most exceptional athletes in sport, throw in a rivalry, later in the season, add tempo and speed alongside theatrics and plain old fashion cheating (lets call it what it is) and then place one man, usually much older than most of the players, who is expected to supervise all of them and ensure they stick to the rules by making immediate decisions.

It's a process that would be laughed at if the sport were to be created today with rule makers demanded he gets more help.

It's a small four letter word that would solve many problems at all levels. Let's help the officials.

Let's start on game-defining moments. For as much as we all love the game it is clear that a match, more often than not, only has a handful of these from start to finish.

Goals, penalty kick decisions and red cards.

No sport can look to get every decision right but the fact that the major game-defining ones are still not getting solved while the game is happening is laughable.

Why should a fan or a player leave the game knowing (not thinking) his team were wrongly punished for a significant game-defining moment?

A goal, a penalty kick decision and a red card all come at the stoppage of the game on the whistle. At this time, one simple rule needs to be implemented.

"No player can approach the referee at this time allowing him time to run to his assistants and communicate with the fourth official if he thinks he needs help to make an absolute decision."

This doesn't require technology or long pauses. It simply gives officials time to ensure they get a clear game-defining decision correct without having a bunch of petulant players all throwing their toys out of their pram in front of his face.

Think back to the last time you made a massive decision in your workplace. Were you asked to make it in less than a second with people pointing and shouting in your face? Of course not, because it is ridiculous.

So why does soccer allow it? It is not a thing exclusive to sport where emotion and competitiveness can be quoted as an excuse for some of the disgusting behavior on show.

Many other sports do not tolerate such abuse towards officials and allow them time to express themselves and get things right. Look at rugby union where captains only are allowed to talk with the referee and where all game-defining decisions (tries, sendings off, etc) can be reviewed between officials.

Not every goal needs to be looked at this way but the sport desperately needs this to be an option to give officials time and stop players from constantly affecting their decision-making with abuse.

Until that happens stories will continue to flood our newspapers and favorite internet sites about poor refereeing because the petulant babies got in front of a microphone after the match to moan some more.

Just make sure you don't feel sorry for any of them. They have created the mess and now have to play a massive part in cleaning it up.



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