Scotland Yard: Is there too much pressure on referees?

Scottish Referee Dougie McDonald giving as good as he gets

Maradona, Pele, Zidane, Cruyff, Moore….the list of world-class players across the years is endless, but can you say the same about referees. The stereo-typical decrepit old man in black is possibly the most  influential figure in any football game but is he influential for the right reasons?

There’s certainly a few grey heads on the Scottish FA pondering the same question. Following Celtics harsh criticism of  referee, Dougie McDonald; Category One referees in Scotland have voted to strike… meaning there could be a week of postponed fixtures in the SPL. Former referee Kenny Clark told BBC Scotland “Referees are at the end of their tether, and it’s not just how it’s impacting on them but it’s the impact it’s all having on their families and business lives.”

It’s not just North of the border where the controversy lyes. Managerial outbursts after a Saturday Premier League game, are more consistent than Katie Waissel being in the bottom two on the X Factor. It was just under a month ago that Harry Redknapp threatened a media blackout following his comments after the Man Utd v Tottenham game. Following Nani’s controversial goal Redknapp implied that referee Clattenburg would make up excuses to cover up his mistake…thats is whether it was a mistake at all, but thats another debate.

Managers, Fans, Players and the Media are all critical of referees, but are they fair to be critical? Lets remember that referees get paid only a fraction of what the worst players get paid let alone what the best players get paid…plus they don’t have the perks involved with being a footballer such as; home fans (unless you count the 4th official), sponsorship coming out of their ears and a phonebook full of East End brothels.

Being English I think it’s safe to say ‘yes’ it is fair to be critical of referees…why you may ask? Despite it being in our nature as English we have been confronted by some pretty dodgey refereeing decisions. There was World Cup 86 when Mardona popped up with the self acclaimed ‘hand of god’ we would have won that one! Then there was France 98 when Beckham got sent of for stroking Diego Simeone with his big toe, was that really a Red? And lets not forget Frank Lampards effort or should I say goal against Germany at the most recent World Cup.

I also remember Chelseas semi-final defeat to Barcelona. That game on 6th May 2009 (watch it here) was marred by bed refereeing decision, after bad refereeing decision. Tom Henning Ovrebo, the Norwegian referee missed four Chelsea claims for a penalty which left the Chelsea players fuming! Didier Drogba was even banned for his ‘attack’ of the referee after the game. Although I’m not condoning Drogba’s behaviour I can understand why he was so angry after the game. This would have been his and Chelsea’s chance to redeem themselves against United after losing in the final the previous year. Not only this but Chelsea have never won the Champions league, this would have been their chance to write history but due to refereeing decisions they didn’t, Barcelona did! Barcelona went on to win an unprecidented Spanish treble, they have been dubbed as one of the greatest teams of all time and Pep Guardiola was escalated to the status of one of the worlds best managers  but if the referee would have made the right call, the chances are that non of this would have happened…Barcelona would now be the big underachievers, the team that never make it past the Champions league semi finals.

Drogba Confronts Referee -sourced from

The problem that we have is that it is far to often on the big stage that the top referees go missing. You often see referees who just aren’t good enough or experienced enough to be refereeing top games, for instance why was a Norwegian referee, who normally officiates in a low pressured Norwegian league, officiating on the biggest stage?

Without a doubt teams are judged on their ability to win games. In todays game the managers ability is based on how you perform in the league and if you meet team objectives. Thats exactly why I feel for manager when they are fined/banned for criticising referee’s after a bad decision is made. A run of three games where a team is confronted by three bad decisions could end up with the team slipping down the table and consequently the manager losing his job.  The problem is the manager has lost everything but the referee walks away unpunished.

Tony Pulis’ proposal of a ‘referee relegation system’ for referees who make bad decisions has been met by appraisel from other Premier League managers. The idea offers a reasonable punishment  for referees that consistantly under-perform and make the wrong decisions. Although would a relegation system make referees more scared to make the big decisions in the big games?

Its these big decisions, right or wrong that define, not only careers but history. If Maradona would have been judged to have handled the ball

Maradona's hand of God - Sourced from

would the phrase hand of god have 66,000,000 hits on google?…probably not. But at the end of the day these are ‘what if’s?’ what has happened has happened, just live with it. But the problem is we shouldn’t have to live with it, FIFA have the technology to minamise the mistakes made by referees but they haven’t. I’m not going to dive to much in to this matter but if FIFA want to take some slack off the backs of the referees, they must introduce video technology.

Whether it’s the right decision I’m unsure… What I would say is, referee’s make the game live. If you take away the human judgement from the game then there becomes less to talk about. Is this a good thing…well yes and no; Post match analysis should be about the football but sometimes its the referees decision that gets the game going and a lot of the time its the referees decision that makes history!

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Read a similar blog post by upper90magazine: ‘Priceless and Pointless Pundits


About patrickfc
I am 22 years old and co-founder of upper90magazine. I love all things football...Whether its a cold and rainy Saturday watching Rushden & Diamonds or an evening International match at Wembley Stadium.

One Response to Scotland Yard: Is there too much pressure on referees?

  1. francis mcdade says:

    You forgot to mention the dodgy refereeing decisions in the 1966 world cup final. England scored 4 ‘goals’ but one was offside, one didn’t cross the goal line and one came after the final whisle. We don’t read about that as often as we read about Maradona’s Hand of God.

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