As referees, we dish out yellow and red cards, and we have the power to control a game and make whatever decisions we deem fit at the time. I’ve often said that referees have power and they should use it, but never abuse it.
However, I’ve also heard from supporters: What about refs? Do they get punished? Do they get banned?
Well, officially, they are covered under Law 5 of the Fifa laws of the game that says:
“The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.”
So, in simple terms, they have great powers and cannot be challenged by anyone, but that’s not always the case.
There have been cases where referees have been disciplined, suspended and even banned for a period of time – or even life.
Recently in the UK, a referee received a 154-day ban from football for failing to report cards he awarded during a match.
Referee Ryan Ansell wasn’t happy with his punishment, which he described as “inconsistent” when comparing it with bans issued to players for more violent conduct, including assaulting referees.
This happened in Birmingham in the English midlands, where the rule is that you must report cautions (yellow cards) and red cards to the league and the Football Association.
He failed on the second part and received his ban.
In his own defence, he said it was “because I work 60 hours a week, so I literally forgot to do it”.
He was also fined £55 (R1 028). He says he intends to appeal the decision and then quit refereeing.
Now you can make of that whatever you like and it will be sad to see him leave, but the rules of the league are designed to protect everyone, and failing to report cautions and red cards is a serious offence.
I’ve no doubt that it was an oversight on the part of the referee. Nevertheless, he’s not a rookie and should know better.
We all remember a more serious case involving Bafana Bafana and their ill-fated 2018 World Cup qualifier against Senegal, after which Ghanaian referee Joseph Odartei Lamptey was banned for life by Fifa for influencing the outcome of the game.
South Africa won 2-1, with the first of their goals won from the penalty spot for a handball that never was.
Fifa said at the time that it “had decided to ban the Ghanaian match official from taking part in any kind of football-related activity [administrative, sport or any other] at national and international level for life”.
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“The official was found guilty of breaching article 69, paragraph 1 [unlawfully influencing match results] of the Fifa disciplinary code during the qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal on November 12 2016.”
Having served as a referee for 25 years at local and national level, and as a trainer and mentor of match officials up to and including World Cup level, I agree with the punishments described above.
There is no compromise for honesty, integrity and accuracy.
We are the guardians of the game. We are expected to rise above all criticism and be fair, firm and objective, with no favour given to either side. It’s not always possible, but we must strive to do the best we can.
If we can’t do that, we need to find some other activity less stressful and demanding.
Remember – if you sell your honesty, you sell your soul. If you sell your soul, you have nothing left.
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