Try learning the rules of Football instead of criticizing the referee. It’s possible that when Ice-T penned Don’t hate the player, hate the game in 1999, he wasn’t referring to football. Don’t hate the referee, hate the Law, his much-anticipated follow-up, has yet to be written 23 years later, but it would be helpful if someone did. The game’s “spirit” dictates that officials’ decisions must always be obeyed, whether they are correct or incorrect. For some players, this debate adds to the game’s fun and appeal.
It’s debatable if discussing contentious choices contributes to the enjoyment of the game. Do viewers actually appreciate watching collisions in slow motion or listening to radio broadcasts and podcasts where the hosts scramble to figure out where the shoulder and arm meet? There is only so much time you have to evaluate a football game; the more time you spend on it, the less time you have to analyze tactics, explain why that guy is unmarked at the far post, or just admire a gorgeous pass, move, or volley.
It is simpler to watch a decision, disagree with it, and cry Premier League here, something needs to be done than to explain Pep’s inverted full-backs. Nothing seems to make sense, not even throwing a former referee into a temporary structure in the back and crossing to them for answers.
Errors do occur, and they must be discussed. The events that took place at the London Stadium last Sunday must still be affecting Fulham fans. However, no one acknowledges VAR when it corrects a mistake and is utilized appropriately, which the facts say happens most of the time, despite all the rage over it when it isn’t flawless.
The You Are The Ref feature could only have persisted for so long if we didn’t know every rule, thus pundits and fans can be excused for not knowing them all. I have no problem saying that I no longer understand the handball law. I just finished reading it. That is Ifab’s issue, not the fault of any particular referee. It’s in disarray.
Perhaps the dichotomous character of social media, where outspoken, uncompromising opinion is valued over all else, has resulted in the unwillingness to accept ignorance. That might receive a thousand retweets, I’m not sure.
What, if any, results from all of this? Former professionals misinterpret the rules and criticize referees, while social media accounts that ought to know better repeat these viewpoints and pose pointless queries like, “Was this offside?” Any rising sense of injustice over a choice gives rise to a variety of conspiracies. Given that he was born a little closer to the club’s stadium, why did the PGMOL assign him to direct that game?
All of this could be okay if it ended with paranoid internet football fans screaming into space, but the abuse level directed at top officials goes far beyond what is acceptable. After receiving internet death threats the previous year, Mike Dean was asked to withdraw from officiating a game.
What about on a local level? Does the dialogue from the TV studio affect how officials at the bottom of the pyramid are treated on social media? That is difficult to measure. However, during an amateur game in Lancashire last week, a 24-year-old was detained on suspicion of seriously assaulting a referee. Platt Bridge player attacked Dave Bradshaw during a South Lancashire Counties league match against Wigan Rose, causing serious injuries to him.
In English grassroots football last year, 380 players and coaches were given suspensions for assaulting or threatening match officials. Following many instances of improper and threatening behavior toward referees, the Merseyside Youth Football League has called off all games this weekend. No officials equal no football. For the purpose of enhancing their protection, the FA will test the use of body cameras for local referees. Amazingly depressing. Whatever the connection, those events need to concentrate the minds of all of us who are being paid to talk about football.
No one should be exempt from criticism, but right now, there isn’t enough emphasis placed on the idea that refereeing is an extremely difficult job under extreme pressure, that mistakes are inevitable because we all make them occasionally, whether at Old Trafford, Stockley Park or on Hackney Marshes.
Before everything else, if we are going to accuse someone of committing a mistake, we should probably verify the rules and make sure it was a mistake, to begin with.
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