This isn’t really anything to do with Fulham specifically but just shows my thoughts on issues surrounding refereeing in football. One aspect of football that the game could do without is the lack of respect towards the referees. Rarely can a match be complete without a player angrily arguing a decision that has been made by those in charge of a match. When players surround a referee not only does it show a lack of respect but it also shows poor sportsmanship as often players are trying to get another player sent off or booked. I believe it to be blight on the game that referees are rarely able to make decisions without being hassled by players and managers. Let me make it clear, a player has the right to ask why a decision was made but there is a better way to do this than surrounding and shouting at the referee at every opportunity which is what we often see. Referees make mistakes, I’m not refuting that, but the lack of respect shown just adds pressure which can lead to more and more mistakes being made. I also refuse to accept that a lack of respect towards referees stems from just poor decisions.
I watch a lot of football but I also play and officiate a lot of hockey. When I watch international hockey you just don’t see anywhere near the amount of dissent and challenging the umpires as you do in football. There could be a few reasons for this. One could be that international hockey makes use of technology for decisions made inside the circle (the only area of the pitch that a play can score from. Once the umpire (referees in hockey are called umpires) has made a decision, the captain of a team can challenge it. The appeal then goes to a video referee who re-watches the incident and gives feedback through a radio. This sort of appeal can only be used inside the circle and teams can only do this a number of times in a match which prevents a team from appealing it every time and just chancing their arm.
This brings up the debate about technology in football again. Many believe that one reason football is so entertaining is the unpredictability that comes from human-error regarding to both players and referees while others argue that football would be better if errors from referees that can costs games were ruled out. In the case of hockey, technology has only improved the game as many mistakes have been ruled out and the outcome of games aren’t scorned because one team feels hard done by those officiating. One problem is that the technology is only available at the very top level so it only benefits those at the top of the game. It increases respect toward the umpire because players know that the biggest decisions can be challenged so dissent is reduced as player don’t feel the need to shout and argue to get their point across. If the hockey style use of video technology was brought into football it would mean that once a referee has made a decision surrounding a foul in the box then the captain of a team could appeal it giving the referee to go to a video referee to confirm the call. This could mean that players aren’t surrounding the referee or linesman as they can use an appeal. One argument against this is that it would increase the amount of stoppages throughout the game. However, if the appeal could only take place in the box and could only happen, say, once per team then the time argument could go away. The appeal system could, if the right rules were also brought in with it, be a real asset to the sport.
However, I don’t believe that technology is the obvious answer to the question of how to improve the respect issue towards refereeing in football. Another aspect of hockey that football could potentially learn from is the use of cards in hockey. Hockey umpires have three cards rather than the two used in football. Umpires carry a green, yellow and red card to help them officiate the game. All cards carry a sin bin consequence for the player it is shown to.
The green card is for small offences such as repeated fouling or dissent and means a player will be off the pitch for between 2-5minutes. The amount of time is decided by the umpire depending on the situation. The yellow card is for more serious fouls, fouls that could prevent a goal scoring opportunity or serious dissent (or repeated dissent). An umpire can decide on the length of a time a player goes off the pitch for, generally between 10-15mins. A red card results in a player being sent off permanently, as in football, but is only used in very serious circumstances, mainly were violence is used. An umpire uses their discretion as to what card to show and when. The 2minute suspension is a big reason why players show respect to the umpire as players know that any back-chat at all to an umpire could result in a green card. I have been a badged umpire for just under a year now and experience has told me that when a player shouts back at me, a green card will generally stop this. The other players will know that their will be a direct consequence for dissent so won’t do it. I’m not saying that football should copy exactly the same system but it would be very interesting to see if a sin-bin would work. I am convinced that it would tackle dissent and would increase respect towards referees.
I reckon that it will only be a matter of time before video refereeing is brought into football in some aspect. Goal-line technology has been a success so more could be brought in to assist with other decision. I don’t think that sin-bins will be brought in despite their success in hockey, and other sports such as rugby. No matter what happens in the future of the game, I hope that we see more respect from players and managers towards those officiating. At the end of the day, no referees means no football!