Like many armchair experts I’ve seen a lot of sport. Some on the telly and a fair amount first hand. The sum total of my playing career extends to one run out for South London Storm seconds and my time spent officiating even less than that. I’ve seen good games, great games, dull games and games so forgettable if I didn’t have the programme I’d not know I’d been. And obviously I’ve seen referees make decisions that leave you speechless.
Across across those literally thousands of matches there have only been a handful of occasions where on reflection I’ve thought something dodgy was going on with some of the calls. And in fact if you look at the totality of the decisions in those games they were close to even. Some fans can’t be convinced though. If you were to ask what do Featherstone Rovers and Celtic FC have in common it is this: some of their most vocal supporters believe that there is institutional bias against them.
But Celtic FC with their forty plus league titles in a little over 100 attempts should probably shut the heck up (I can’t comment on Fev). Today, as a direct result of their (and let’s be fair, that of the nuttier elements of a hooting media and the players, coaches etc of other teams including the other half of the Gruesome Twosome) ever-more direct whinging that has led to threats and intimidation the match officials of Scotland have walked out. They will not don the oh-so-amusingly sponsored by Specsavers shirts. And despite regarding Scottish refs as almost comedically bad back when I had the pleasure of watching Scottish football regularly I agree with their decision. Too often now managers with a chip and a failing team are encouraged by a media that doesn’t understand the rules of their game to imply or outright state that something stinks about what their poor team is up against. They all should realise that the ref is a better man than any of them.
Nobody becomes a ref for the for the fame or the glory – they do it for love and for a desire to see the game played properly. You try judging – at full speed, from one angle, and with no replays – whether that was a dive or a penalty. From behind. From fifteen metres. With the game carrying on.
You can see this shot of a lone flag bearer at Amersham Town here. This guy had already made one howler flagging for offside when the player ran clearly from onside and even in a crowd of 22 someone was on hand to call him a wanker for it. That’s what match officials in soccer have to deal with and it’s no wonder that in the end they might decide to walk away.