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Refereeing lessons

November 23 2003

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

We are probably a little biased, but have we had a particularly inept load of plonkers in the black at Selhurst Park this season? Jamesey holds forth on remedial action

You know the situation all too well. It's Palace against Rotherwall Albion at Selhurst. It's nil-nil, with three minutes to go on the clock. The ref gives Palace a free kick 25 yards from the opposing goal.

Every player except one Palace defender and the keeper are in the box, which is a seething, shoving, shirt-tugging mass of bodies. The free-kick is taken and a knee or foot from somewhere in the melee touches the ball into the net.

It's a goal and must be the winner for the red-and-blues.We leap to our feet ecstatic, jubilant and cheering...

But wait, the ref has awarded a free kick to the Albion. Now which offence out of the innumerable niggling battles going on has the idiot decided to notice. If he has given one offence against Palace, there must have been at least four the other way.

Well, we'll never know because football refs don't bother to indicate to the crowd or even the players most of the time why they have blown up. We leave at the final whistle feeling outraged, cheated and mystified.

During this year's rugby world cup in Australia, one of the eye-openers for me has been the efficient, organised and user-friendly way the games are officiated.

Now, I am obviously not suggesting that an average first division side could stretch to fully wired-up officials, multi-positional TV cameras, etc, etc?

What impresses is the spirit of the system. Instead of some egomaniac treating the players and the crowd with equal contempt, we are presented with a caring and intelligent ex-player who communicates the reasons for every decision to the people who count... the players and the crowd.

Why is this blindingly obvious piece of sense ignored most of the time by football referees?

Many of my football enthusiast friends say that TV replays to establish the legitimacy of penalty awards or important offside decisions would never work in the game.

Sadly, rugby referees do not have to put up with the cheating, diving and gamesmanship that their football counterparts have to, so their job is made much easier.

But the TV replays of the French try in the England/France semi-final were a revelation as to how different things can look from different angles.

I was convinced the Frenchman was over the touchline before he put down. But No, there it was on one of the replays, a perfectly good try.

Anyhow, just for starters, could our referees act with rather more consideration than they seem to do at the moment?.

Could they please remember that we are not there to see them but the players. Treat us like reasonable human beings and tell us by sign language what is going on.

I guarantee the familiar chant of "the referee's a w*****" would be far less common.

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