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.
FIFA proudly announcing sharp reduction in yellow cards at World Cup. But refs – presumably under orders – have allowed players to get away with far too much dissent and petty fouls that needed to be stamped down on. Inevitable for card numbers to fall if Laws not followed.
— FatRef/Simon Haydon (@simonhaydon) 3 juli 2018
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.”
“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.”
Don’t understand why referees put up with the in-your-face abuse. Give them yellow cards and stop the nonsense.
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) 3 juli 2018
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!