No one said that being a referee was an easy job.
It takes guts, determination and steely resolve to get through 90 minutes of a game, and sometimes more.
The tricks and shenanigans of certain individuals on the park are something to behold.
And I have been through it all – from being chased off a field, being taken out of a stadium in Atteridgeville in the boot of a car and having to hide in an armoured police car in Tembisa to receiving death threats over the phone and having a .45 bullet left in my hotel room before an important relegation PSL match.
All of that I could take because I was an adult referee and, in some ways, it’s par for the course, to use a golf analogy.
What I cannot take is the verbal abuse of teenage referees, which seems to be getting worse.
These kids, who give of their time for little or no reward, should be congratulated for making themselves available. They should not be bullied or intimidated by adults.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about one of the biggest teams/clubs in England, and perhaps even the world.
The premier London-based club Arsenal, has the dubious distinction of having a coach verbally abuse a woman referee at an Under-9 game – yes, I said an Under–9 game.
Said coach was recently banned and fined for his attitude towards this unfortunate young woman.
This most unsavoury incident happened when Arsenal played a former Premier League team, Reading FC.
The coach involved, Alex Nichols, received a three-match ban and was fined £300 (R5 450) for his behaviour. He was also warned about his future conduct.
While Nichols admitted to a charge of improper language and/or behaviour towards the match referee during the game, he denied using “abusive and/or insulting words” when speaking to the official.
Now the real problem, as I see it, is the total lack of respect for referees, regardless of what level, in whatever league and in whatever country they are. I regularly witness on television – and one doesn’t need to be an expert lip reader – the total disregard by some players for the authority of the referee and/or their assistants.
Remember that the assistants, whether running the line or as a fourth official, are also subjected to some of the most disgusting verbal abuse.
This begs the following questions:
. Why do they take it?
. Why do they allow themselves to be the “whipping men/women” of football?
. Why allow yourself to suffer this kind of abuse when you have the power to deal with it?
The answer is quite simple.
The various leagues will not support their men and women in black because of the power that the bigger clubs in particular have over the game.
Only recently, foul and abusive language as an offence was relegated from a straight red card to a yellow card. This, in my opinion, was a big mistake and can only lead to a further erosion of the match officials’ authority and respect.
The abuse of this young referee, who happened to be a young woman in her early teens, is unacceptable. A three-match ban plus a £300 fine is totally inadequate and will, again, send the wrong message that players and coaches can say and do what they like, with little or no consequences.
Referees have always been the “poor relations” of football and we are sometimes seen as a necessary evil.
It’s time to get back some respect – and that can only happen if referees are brave enough to stand up to this kind of disgusting thuggery, deal with it, and then have the full and unambiguous backing of the leagues in which they operate.
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