Column: Give the ref a break
I've had an idea '“ and not before time some might say.
How about this: National Be Nice To Referees Week.
Hold that thought.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary a referee is: “An official who watches a game or match closely to ensure that the rules are adhered to and (in some sports) to arbitrate on matters arising from the play.”
That doesn’t sound much like the football referees we see on our grounds and TV screens.
You know those naïve, short-sighted dupes who ruin games, players’ reputations, managerial careers and the fans enjoyment on a weekly basis?
Those who, according to some of the more reserved observations made at our grounds are: blind, bent, stupid t***s of indefinable lineage and dubious personal habits. The fans aren’t very complimentary either.
Referees are those that all fans feel able to scream vile abuse at as though it’s not only acceptable but compulsory. It’s actually neither.
But referees are subject to universal hatred as we fans revert to shrieking hard-done-by adolescents raging against injustice meted out by those nasty authority figures.
So how about National Be Nice To Referees Week?
Neil Warnock and Alan Pardew could organise it, Louis Van Gaal and Arsene Wenger could design ref awareness programmes and England women’s team manager Mark ‘the-officials-aren’t-good-enough’ Sampson could host seminars promoting managerial self-control after his outburst this weekend.
While we’re on about the men and women in black I reckon we might on the way to having a successor to the great Howard Webb as one of the world’s best referees - Michael Oliver. Every time he’s on TV he looks mor authoritative, he’s fit, fair and makes decisions that, to the watching neutral fan, mostly make sense.
Of course he makes mistakes, howlers even, but that’s the nature of the job, he has one pair of eyes trying to see everything the rest of us can’t always see after replaying incidents from 12 camera angles.
Most importantly, he’s improving, his handling of the high-speed derby at White Hart lane at the weekend was excellent – despite clear errors - and his proper use of the advantage rule at times superb.
Technical details but important.
Of course both sets of fans hated him with a hysterical passion for different reasons.
That’s the way it is.
Be Nice To Referees Week won’t be an easy sell but it’s about time we gave them a break.