Awful behaviour of players against referees has to stop

What do players think when they approach the referee while shouting, protesting and making crazy gestures? That question crossed my mind a couple of times the last few days. This awful behaviour of players against referees has to stop. These actions set the wrong example for the adults and kids you and I have to referee every weekend after the summer break in our leagues.

A tweet by @ObserverRef during Colombia vs England triggered me to write this blog post. He wrote: “Our game is a mess and fixing it has to start from the top. This tournament has been an awful example and referees across the globe will suffer as such behaviour deemed ‘a part of the game’.”

Former Premier League referee Graham Poll puts it this way. “The tournament has been blighted by these scenes of over-the-top reactions to refereeing decisions with scant respect shown to match officials.”

And that is why I’d to see action take by the World Cup referees and their bosses.

For who has missed it: re-watch the whole scene after the awarded penalty kick.

Behaviour towards the referee

The perfect platform would be the World Cup, but in Russia the exact opposite happens. During the media briefing after the group stage referee boss Pierluigi Collina even thanks the the players and coaches in terms of their behaviour. “We are pleased about this”, he says. Because it’s “something that proves the respect of the players for their opponents so far has been very good.”

To the oppononent’s, not in my book. Let alone their behaviour towards the referee.

The low number of cards seems more like a directive by the referee bosses. “But refs under orders to keep cards to a minimum will be looking for reasons not to show a card”, writes AP sports editor Simon Haydon on Twitter.

Asking for the VAR

Lots of players tend to ask for the VAR to get a penalty kick. Collina said that “if the appeal is not made in an arrogant or disrespectful manner, it has to be appreciated that the referees were not strict but.” On other occasions the referees need to show a yellow card,” he said in Telegraph

If you ask me: the way players ask for VAR and surround referees are way off limit. So does former EPL referee Graham Poll.

Significant actions against superstar

He thinks FIFA should take stronger action against the protests. But they fail in his opinion. A perfect example is Ronaldo’s yellow card against Uruguay. He writes in The Mirror: “The Portugal international sprinted towards the official as he gestured for a goal kick, and screamed at him angrily. Some fans watching the action believe he shouted “f*** you” at the referee, as he got right up in his face, and earned himself a yellow card for his trouble.”

“FIFA missed a massive opportunity to stamp some authority by imposing a significant sanction on the world superstar after his outrageous dissent”, Poll says. He notices what I and many other referees also experience. “FIFA must instruct referees to be stronger in dealing with protests and then impose significant sanctions if the game isn’t to be lost to these screaming prima donnas.”

In-your-face abuse

“Our target is to have all people on the pitch speaking the same language, players, coaches, referees”. That is a quote from Collina in the media briefing before the World Cup.

But it looks like we are far away from that.

Gary Linker also doesn’t get it. “Don’t understand why referees put up with the in-your-face abuse”, he tweets. “Give them yellow cards and stop the nonsense.”

Keep silent

Dutch director of amateur football Dirk Jan van der Zee supports the same idea. He wrote a story with voices of different referees. The message: “Keep silent towards referees“.

A message I fully support. I hope football authorities take stronger action against the awful behaviour of players. Hopefully it starts soon – maybe even during the World Cup. If that starts at the top it would make refereeing much easier and more fun for us at our own level.

Support other referees

Let’s quickly go back to the Colombia – England game. Paul Rejer calls the behaviour by the Colombian team nothing short of disgraceful. “They made the game incredibly difficult for Geiger and any referee would have struggled, to suggest otherwise is unreasonable”, he says on TheRef online.


He has a point. Every referee would have a difficult game with such behaviour. So let’s unite. No, this awful protests and dissent is not going to stop right away. For now it’s still a thought for the future. But I hope as many referees as possible support this message by sharing it and supporting each other as refereeing family. Together strong!


  • Tony Cook

    As an official in both Cricket and Rugby Union, if any player came to me with the attitude shown by those over priced prematch donnas they would not have been shown a yellow card but RED. I have changed in the past the giving of a yellow, for technical persistent offending to a straight red for abuse of an official; this is what is happening when the Ref is being surrounded by players. If this continues a sanction regardless of which player is being abusive send of the captain and team manager,time to put the responsibility of fair play back to the management of the team. Let the Ref ; ref.

  • Jackson

    I very much agree with Paul Rejer. I find it simply disgraceful that many referees are slamming Geiger’s performance when it is clearly the actions of the players that made the game so so difficult.

  • Paul

    This has been the worst part of this world cup in my opinion, and I agree that we referees will get an impact from it. Unless players are immediately carded when they surround the referee, then it will continue all game and every game.

    We (in my region of France) have started using the sin bin for dissent offences, and how fantastic it has been after the first season. Me and my colleagues here agree that 10 minutes in the sin bin stops any further dissent. Plus, about a third of the way into the season, since the players and coaches realise they will play one short (sometimes two short), dissent has almost stopped. Just to add, that a second dissent offence in the same match resulted in a second sin bin, but it would become a red card, as for two yellow cards. All season we never got a second dissent offence in the same match! Perhaps a sin bin is the solution for all this that we have been seeing at the world cup, I am sure it would very quickly stop players surrounding the referee.

    I also agree that FIFA must have instructed referees to be more lenient with ‘yellow card’ fouls. So many of these bad fouls have not see yellow cards, and again, it will impact on us next season.

    I was a referee in England for 33 years, and for the last 12 years have been refereeing in south west France.

  • peter stimpson

    There is a way of trying to stop this from happening, bring into the laws of the game that only a captain of the team during a game can approach the referee if any of the team’s other players come within 10 yards of the referee at this point they will receive a caution, which could result in that or players being sent off if they have already been cautioned, Another thing that could be tried is to maybe move the ball on 10 yards, we tried this some time back, in oxfordshire fa & it seemed to work, this was done for any form of dissent if a player persists in doing this & the referee moves the ball on from the original spot were it was on the field of play & the ball ends up in the penalty area it then goes from being a free kick outside the box to a penalty kick, this might change a few of the players attitude’s, but I think that FIFA need to throw the book at these countries & the players as well hit them in there pockets with big fine’s & big suspensions ie 10 games in there leagues.

  • Rick Beaver

    When instructing new officials, my advice is to back away from the confrontation quickly and hold up both arms and say “no closer. I won’t have it.” if they insist on chasing you, then reach quickly for the yellow card and show the first player approaching you and say “This is for dissent”. They will get the message that it will not be tolerated. OR they will get YCs coming out their ears! It appears officials have been instructed not to show the card for dissent. Otherwise Geiger would be done (he’s not!) as would several others.

  • Richard Dawson

    This has been possibly the best World cup for continuing excitement drama and entertainment. The Referees who are here have under gone a long process of rethinking the game and the introduction of the VAR is changing the way the game is officiated. Those watching and evaluating are of course entitled to their opinions but the number 1 job of the referee was to allow the players to play & NOT interfere unless the safety of the players was compromised . The fact is yellow cards are STUPID yea that right STUPID they do NOT fit the game or the needs of the game There NEEDS to be the introduction of the sinbin to accommodate the theatrical behavior but not punish the game from the fan perspective.

    Card accumulation is what causes referees to rethink awarding cautions. Players in highly competitive matches can be banned from a important match for receiving cautions ahead of the quarters or semi finals stages.
    Fifa ridiculous LOTG mandatory caution for Keepers off the goal line early on PKS is farcical in its application Best keepers in the world cautioned for a 1st offence? Never mind the possibility of getting tossed and THEN missing the next match assuming there WAS one!

    Dissent is an issue because the climate of anxiety on a match where you are LITERALLY playing for the WORLD supremacy there has to be as raw emotion as there is on the heart sleeve of any player. Given the VAR is present and there can be additional punishment for behaviors after the match . Here is where the discipline could be rained down in abundance.

    When a referee MISSES the foul especially some of the CLEAR fouls in around the PA like today in the France Belgium game I was amazed at the restraint of the player who must be furious,

    What I also notice is the LONG delays in getting play restarted lead to a greater number of off the ball incidents and thus more surrounding the referee incidents.. .

    MY solutions are get play restarted quickly move away.

    SINBIN for dissent

    minimum 3 yellow cards before bans are considered.

    retroactive discipline from a special disciplinary body reviewing all matches

  • Paul Velardi

    The problem here is in the rules themselves. We cannot expect referees to manage these situations with the binary penalties that they have available to them. First, minor fouls have no significant consequences. And major fouls don’t do much better. An indirect free kick for a tripping offense?? Come on. That should earn the offending player 5-10 minutes off the field. And a deliberate tackle from behind when a defender knows that he has no chance of catching a break-away attack? 30 minutes off the field. And the fouled player gets an unobstructed shot at the net from wherever the foul occurred.

  • Nyondo shem

    Its really a concern more especially here in Africa. Players will take this dissent by word/ action we have witnessed so far at the ongoing World cup to be very normal. Fifa must really come in & come in quickly to combat such kind of behaviour exhibited by most players at the tournament.

  • Auwalu Rabi'u

    I think the laws of the game has already started it clearly. if a player protests against the decision of the Referee that player must to caution. likewise doing any unsporting behavior which includes dissent by word or action has to be caution. so it’s the Referees that created mass confrontation without taking the appropriate action.

  • Macca

    Ripping up the pitch near the penalty spot once pen awarded is such a dog act. Is a yellow for unsporting behaviour. I will instruct my assistants to be watching for this next time I blow a pen and I am distracted by a bunch of dissenting players…

    • Jan ter Harmsel

      Sometimes players do it, or something else. Always good to ask your AR if he or she focuses on all other players and their behaviour.

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