Monday, 1 November 2010

Communication or Confrontation?

Following the weekend's big controversy at Old Trafford, the argument for referees justifying their more contentious decisions has resurfaced and for those of you that care (hopefully you have a vague interest if you've found this blog), here's my take on it.

Since the emergence of television replays from angles even Pythagoras hadn't dreamt up, referees and linesmen (sorry, i'm old fashioned) have come in for an even more vociferous torrent of abuse than ever before. And i'll admit now i'm probably more guilty than most for not mincing my words towards the men in the middle.

But as i've always believed and as Mark Lawrenson discussed with Gabby Logan on Match of the Day 2 last night, referees should be obliged to come out in the media, preferably infront of a post-match camera, to explain decisions - particularly the more contentious ones.

It would not be demeaning of their authority. If anything, as Gabby Logan observed, "It empowers them if they do that."

Communication goes a long way in all walks of life and may not altogether solve problems, but certainly makes people more accepting. And it would undoubtedly go a long way to improving a deteriorating situation in football. If the officials make a mistake, admitting they've done so is acceptable. If they still believe they are in the right, explaining the methods behind their madness is also acceptable. Hiding away behind former referees endears them to no-one and only serves to fuel speculation, arguments and anger amongst the media, players and supporters.

By refusing to hold their hands up to mistakes or explain how and why they've come to certain decisions will only serve to widen the ever-increasing gap between the officials and the rest of the footballing world. At present, the cracks have appeared and are creating a crevice in relations but with a continued lack of communication and officious nature, the crevice will become an irreparable chasm. The FA's respect campaign will never work until referees hold up their end of the bargain - only then can they really have grounds for complaint.

Some referee sympathisers will say that officials have no reason to do so and that players make many more mistakes in the course of 90 minutes than their officious counterparts. This may well be true, but to believe players don't get reprimanded for poor performances or costly errors is to believe Titus Bramble is one of the world's best defenders!

Players are often villified for their mistakes and are subjected to cameras and microphones being shoved under their noses only minutes after the end of a match. I'm not saying this is right, Didier Drogba's actions after the 2009 Champions League semi-final defeat to Barcelona show how high feelings can run so close to the final whistle, but if players are put in this position it only seems right that referees are afforded the same or at least similar treatment.

This isn't an attack on referees or the job they do, but I feel being more open with the paying public and offering a greater level of communication will assist their efforts to reduce abuse both on the pitch and on the terraces.

The cameras show up poor decisions, replays confirming incorrect calls infuriate fans. Officials can use the same offending technology to get people back on side and it's about time they were brave enough to either back their decisions or hold their hands up to mistakes. Then the respect campaign may just have some clout to it.

In a case of communication or confrontation for football's officials, communication is surely the best option all round.

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