Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughFinally some respect - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Finally some respect - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Finally some respect

This week, Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, announced that all 20 top-flight clubs have agreed that, starting next year, there will be a crack-down on players and managers abusing, criticising and generally haranguing referees.

It comes in the same week as Wayne Rooney’s fouled mouthed confrontation with a television camera, which wasn’t aimed at the referee, but nevertheless, put the spotlight once again on football for all the wrong reasons.

The rhetoric coming out of the Premier League indicates that they may be going too far in their stance, with the potentially dangerous scenario of no swearing allowed at all. But this announcement doesn’t come before time.

The FA’s dwindling Respect campaign needed a boost and with the criticism of referees almost becoming a weekly occurrence, something needed to be done to reign in the offenders and bring some ‘respect’ back to the game of football.

This season we have seen many a player and manager regularly criticise referees’ performance. Two of the worst offenders have, yet again, been Messieurs Wenger and Ferguson, two of the world’s most respected and successful football managers.

In fairness to the FA, they have started to punish offenders, with Ferguson currently serving a five-match ban for indicating that Martin Atkinson wasn’t a fair or competent referee.

I would like to think that most fans would agree, including Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, that the so called big clubs tend to see the important decisions go their way, especially at home. Therefore, why do Ferguson and Wenger feel it so necessary to criticise referees so openly.

One could argue that in most cases when managers criticise the men in black, green, blue, pink or whatever other colour takes their fancy that day, that they are doing so in the heat of the moment. However, if this were true then surely there would be a retraction of what’s been said a few days later. Can you ever remember that happening?

Instead, you get managers like Ferguson actually challenging the charges put to them, in the hope that the authorities would somehow bow down to their stature and status within the game.

But it’s precisely because of that stature and status that they shouldn’t undermine our officials by their harsh, and in many occasions unwarranted, criticism of them.

Referees will always make mistakes, just like everyone else in every walk of life. Can we honestly say that our officials are as bad as they’ve ever been or they’re making more and more mistakes?

Ever since I’ve been around football, referees and their errors, have been part and parcel of the game. Can anyone ever remember a football phone-in that didn’t involve some fan ringing-in to say about how poor their match official was?

I would actually argue that our match officials have improved over the last decade or so, but then again, they’ve had to. The game is faster than ever. We now pay our top referees a very healthy professional wage, which enables them to concentrate on the game in hand, and thus improving their performance. Their fitness has also improved, but again, its had to because of the pace and ferocity of modern day football.

It was refreshing to hear Kenny Dalglish side on the referees on this subject, he said: “Every one of them in every game has made mistakes but we make mistakes as well. If we are going to respect the [FA’s Respect] campaign, and we are the ones who are adhering to it, then I just hope we are not the ones who suffer.”

I just hope Dalglish’s commitment to the respect campaign isn’t a false one and that even when a referee makes a decision, which may have very well cost Liverpool a victory, that he doesn’t come out and lambast the official.

One manager who was true to his word when it came to referees was Brian Cough. He always refrained from criticising referees, often stating that his players should look at fixing their own mistakes before looking at anyone else.

It should therefore come as no surprise that current England Under-21 manager, Stuart Pearce, one of Clough’s former players, has the same opinions on this matter, he said: “I’ve been brought up under Brian Clough to keep my mouth shut. All decisions are going to be balanced over a season.

“If you don’t think refs are going to make mistakes just look at your own performance as a player or manager and know you can’t get decisions right all the time. The same thing applies to them – it’s physically impossible with the pace of the games nowadays.”

Of course, managers like Ferguson and Wenger are only protecting their players. They’re hardily going to come out after a game and denounce one of their star players. But why does football have to be so different to almost every other sport.

The example always used in arguments such as these is Rugby Union. Rugby players and coaches alike have the utmost respect for their officials, going as far as to call the match referee, Sir. However, this comparison isn’t entirely fair. Rugby is, of course, an aggressive, full contact sport, and thus players can take their anger and frustration out on the opposition.

Football on the other hand is far more reserved and thus the frustration often builds up, with no guarantee that is will ever be released on the field of play. However, despite this contrast, football can, and should, learn lessons from rugby.

The only glaring problem with this initiative is the lack of support from football’s governing bodies, namely, UEFA and FIFA. The poor treatment of referees isn’t a purely English problem. In fact, I would go as far to say that the continent can be a lot worse than the Premier League when it comes to respect for the men in black.

Hopefully this this new campaign of targeting “unacceptable” behaviour towards referees and the criticism of officials, which will run alongside the Football Association’s Respect campaign, will finally reign in the players and managers who, up till now, have had total disregard for this worthy campaign.

The noises coming out from the PFA seem promising, with the PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle, the current Burnley defender, confirming: “As long as the guidelines are clear we will support them. They need to make sure there are no grey areas so that referees can apply them consistently and players know where they stand.”

A very sensible and common sense approach, but then again, for those of you that caught Carlisle’s performance on BBC’s Question Time earlier this year, you would expect nothing less from a very impressive and intelligent individual, both on and off the field.

But just as you thought that we may finally rid ourselves of this embarrassment from our game, the Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has chosen to pour scorn on the plan, stating that the boss behind the scheme didn’t have “much to do.”

Back to the drawing board then. Thank you, Mr Ferguson, thank you.

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