Match Officiating Needs To Improve!

Editor's Blog
Editor's Blog

Season after season, there are endless calls for our match officials to pull up their socks and get their act together, following a number of poor performances and inconsistent application of the Laws of the Game.

The disappointing part is that very little, if at all, is seen to be done about this pandemic which is affecting the game adversely. Coaches are under immense pressure and sometimes lose their jobs through the ‘middlemen’s’ wrong decisions, while players also suffer because of poor results. However, life seems to go on for the match officials and they seem immune to any criticism, let alone accountability. Coaches and players get booked and suspended for their transgressions, whether right or wrong, but what happens after a match official makes blatant wrong decisions? They are shipped away and disappear from our television screens for a short while, until the dust has settled, before they reappear without any disciplinary measures being announced or confirmed as having

been taken against the said official. The impression is that these guys are beyond reproach when their decisions have such an effect on everyone else’s future and jobs. 

There seems to be an outcry from everyone every season regarding the performances of the match officials and this contentious issue continues to rear its ugly head every season. It seldom happens that five rounds of fixtures get played without any match official stealing the show, making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The level of inconsistency has been shocking to say the least, at crucial times, so far this season. Look, this is by no means a knock on match officials because as much as there has been inconsistent and poor officiating, there have been some really good performances from the ‘men in the middle’ so far this campaign. Having said that, it doesn’t help much to have good performances mixed with those that are frowned upon, because that takes away from the good that is being done. The more good performances than poor ones, the better and that’s the only way to go. A number of decisions have not covered our match officials in any kind of glory. It starts with what you’d expect to be simple basics of refereeing, where a match official is not even seen on the field, yet their presence is somehow felt. Efficient match officials allow the game to continue when it has to and only stop the action when necessary. They know the difference between the two. Great match officials allow the game to flow, the last thing they will do is get involved in the rotation of the ball, where a player passes the ball to a teammate, only for it to come off the match official. That’s just not on, but we continue to see it in our league, which can only be attributed to the wrong running of the field by the match officials.  

Back in the day, referees were told to run the field diagonally, where you can have a clear view of the action as well as the two assistant referees who are manning the lines. That means you don’t run like the players do, as your assistants are running to their right-hand side on either side of the line, which then dictates that you – as the referee – run in such a way that the halves of the field that don’t have an assistant are where you will be spending most of your time, with them operating from the opposite side and ensuring the whole ground is covered. The referee will be running across the field, while the assistants are running to their right, and that’s how you maintain the full view of the action and the field. That has since changed because the referees are now instructed to keep close proximity to the action, which explains why they get caught up in passes exchanged between players when they are not part of the action. That explains why our referees get drawn into where the action is, without much space between them and the players. Only experienced campaigners will be able to anticipate the action and make a good call or run even before action takes place. To do that, one needs to understand the way the teams are playing, how they attack, who are the payers who make things happen for them and how they initiate their moves. It takes a lot of preparation to get this right, but more importantly, it takes experience because if your referees are of the same or similar experience, then they are not going to go far in avoiding making these mistakes. Experienced campaigners are likely to get touched by the ball once in the whole season because they can see things before they happen and get out of the way. This goes back to the microwave system that we once addressed on this platform about the league rushing inexperienced match officials into top positions at the expense of the experienced campaigners, who should be mentoring the young, up-and-coming group.   

Again, the level of inconsistency is disappointing at times and refereeing is one of the most important components of the Beautiful Game, which is why their decisions not only affect the game itself but everyone around it. They are the conductors who have a huge responsibility of ensuring that everyone and everything is in sync, that the spirit of Fair Play is observed and applied all the time. These are the people who ensure that everyone leaves the field in one piece, after giving their all for their respective teams. These are the people who ensure that the team that wins does so fairly and that there is no undue advantage given to anyone.

Football being a contact sport brings a serious potential to harm the next player, if the Laws of the Game are not enforced. We have seen a number of career-threatening tackles and even head injuries that were allowed to continue unabated and you start wondering what happened to the players’ safety and health being a top priority? To see some of the decisions taken by the match officials, where the same infringement is interpreted differently, opens up a can of worms and sends everyone into a conspiracy theory mode. We can’t afford to leave things open to interpretation, we need to know exactly what is going on. We also can’t afford to compromise the players’ safety and health because we’ve already seen a number of serious injuries that took place in recent games because players feel they can get away with inflicting pain on the opposition, with very little consequences. It takes strong and consistent refereeing to keep the players on their toes and ensuring that they remain on the straight and narrow. The last thing we need is to see players stretchered off the field and rushed to hospital when they came to play football and entertain their supporters. Players’ safety is the most important thing and should never be compromised at any stage. Match officiating needs to improve!   

Football isn’t just about 90 minutes on the field, there’s life outside of football. The same players and coaches have families who expect to see them back home after a match, regardless of the result. They must come back in one piece, just as they left their homes. We need to protect the players more so that we see less injuries in the game. Something needs to be soon, so that things don’t get completely out of hand when it comes to injuries on the field. Also, coaches are losing their job because of incompetent and inconsistent officiating. 

Maybe it is time the powers that be revisit their decision to do away with experienced referees, otherwise we will continue to see these problems for the next three or four seasons when most of the current officials will be experienced enough. 



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