Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughReferees need to bite back - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Referees need to bite back - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Referees need to bite back

“Showing dissent by word or action

A player who is guilty of dissent by protesting (verbally or non-verbally) against a referee’s decision must be cautioned.

The captain of a team has no special status or privileges under the Laws of the Game but he has a degree of responsibility for the behaviour of his team.

–          Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct, page 118, Laws of the Game 2011/2012

When Kasper Schmeichel was sent off in Saturday’s meeting between Nottingham Forest and Leicester, I couldn’t help but smile at the referee’s decision.

For those that missed it, the Dane was dismissed by Jonathan Moss after picking up a silly yellow card either side of Lewis McGugan’s successful spot kick: one for delaying McGugan in taking the penalty, and the second for plucking the ball out of the net and hurling it away in frustration.

In his defence, Schmeichel claimed that he wasn’t aware that he had received the first booking, but even his manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, sensibly admitted that was “a poor excuse”.

Earlier that day, we had also seen Andy Carroll and Emmanuel Frimpong booked at the Emirates Stadium: the former for putting the ball in the net way after being whistled up for offside, and the latter for needlessly jostling Jordan Henderson as he prepared to take a harmless throw-in.

All of those decisions are excellent examples of the approach referees should take to acts of dissent: zero tolerance. But officials are still given too much space for leniency, too much leeway to decide to ‘let the game flow’, or, as Howard Webb would have it, ‘not wanting to spoil the game’.

Early on in the Arsenal-Liverpool game, Lucas Leiva fouled Theo Walcott and a foul was given. Walcott was then picked up on camera clearly asking ‘are you stupid?’, not to Lucas, who might more justifiably have drawn the Englishman’s ire, but to referee Martin Atkinson, whom Walcott felt should have shown the Brazilian a yellow card.

I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been, as such exchanges are commonplace. In the same game, Carroll was seen to exclaim ‘f*** off’ in deference to a decision against him, and Samir Nasri belted the ball into the advertising hoardings in frustration after running the ball out of play. None of these offences was punished, despite Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore’s claims that there is an emphasis this season on “a reduction in disrespectful behaviour, turning backs on referees, and we don’t want players surrounding referees, as well as the conduct of managers.”

Uefa also talk in grandiose terms about their much-vaunted Respect initiative, with president Michel Platini claiming on the campaign’s website that it enables the sport “to use its enormous popularity to help in combating social ills, promoting civic commitments and defending major humanitarian causes.”

He continues: “The Respect campaign allows us to bring together all the elements to strengthen their impact. It is a concept which epitomises all of our social responsibility work: respect. Respect in the stands, on the pitch, in the cities and throughout Europe.”

Quite how they expect to achieve this lofty goal when they hardly seem able to instill civility into their football matches is baffling. While the Respect campaign is a step in the right direction, one need only look at the arm-flailing Kevin-the-Teenager mini-strops thrown by many players when a simple throw in decision goes against them to witness the classlessness that is so prevalent in the game.

Such reactions are an embarrassment to the sport, and Uefa should give their referees a directive to apply the letter of the law by showing a yellow card in response to the tiniest flounce, the merest word of defiance at a decision. Referees have a difficult enough job without having to deal with players’ outraged appeals, however justified they might be.

The familiar response to this suggestion is that every game would feature at least one red card if the rules were so applied, but so be it. The remonstration culture is so endemic that only drastic action will stop it now, and all but the most stupid or belligerent players would soon learn to keep their thoughts to themselves if they knew they were absolutely guaranteed a yellow card for complaining.

There shouldn’t be any fear of a backlash from supporters for taking such a measure either, and not only because the overwhelming majority are already fed up with the constant undignified bickering. As long as this directive were made public and the law were applied consistently, fans would direct their frustrations towards the player getting booked for such a stupid and avoidable infraction, rather than towards the officials. Likewise, managers would have to stress the importance of abiding by the rules, if only to prevent suspensions – just ask Kasper Schmeichel.

It’s a small measure that would make a huge difference, and would go a long way towards allowing us to focus on the football, not the silly arguments. 

Steven Chicken @malchickles



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