I’m back; give me a roar worthy of the once proud Assyrian tribesman! We have a problem in our once beautiful game. Of course we do, you the great masses say, as I would not be writing if there were not. Another rant, it’s all I seem to do on such things that I once loved and struggle with. So why write? Well, like my two previous pieces of drivel, I see a future. I do not write to criticise, I write with an opinion on how to improve. I start this way because I’m going to rant about one who it is far too easy to criticise but opinion is greatly divide on how to improve. As previously expected, this is where my over inflated ego sets out to educate.
Ok my journalistic integrity may take a hit here as I have no idea who he was nor remember his exact words. So, the day following the Edinburgh derby, the recent one where that NED Griffiths had a goal chalked off despite being a yard over the line, I turned on Sky Sports News. They were talking to some guy high up in some kind of Refereeing establishment or body. He said something roughly along the lines of: “The Referee and Linesman are both exactly where they should be. The Linesman, as he should be, is looking along the line for offside. From the moment the ball is kicked to it rebounding behind the line and coming out is just seconds. The Linesman, thus, cannot react quickly enough to see if the ball is clearly over the line or not, and to give the goal the Officials have to be 100% sure”. Ok fair enough, move on then. NO! To me you just said the Linesman is incapable of doing the job!
Now, I am not for one minute hounding this particular linesman or Referee, in fact, I completely agree with my unnamed friend who sat in the SSN studio. However, we can’t just say ok fine, shit happens eh! I may not like it, however, Football is now a business and what other business in the world would allow its employees to work in a situation so important to its entire fabric where they cannot perform properly and essentially have to hope they make the right decision. That business is going to fail my friend, I understand we all need luck to succeed but depending on it dooms you to failure. The goal is the most important part of the game and, therefore, finally the powers that be have decided that Goal-Line Technology shall be introduced over the next few years…but not in Scotland. Why? Cause we’re too skint. Right but we can pay Doncaster £200k a year yeah? Ok, well, that is rant for another time and place. I did promise you some positive way forward after all, but you get my point.
I do not believe that if we have a governing body truly with the good of the game at heart that a solution to financing Goal-Line Technology can’t be sought. Merging and then streamlining the bodies that govern all aspects of Scottish football would be a start. SFA, SPL, and SFL should be one. Will jobs be lost? Of course but its money brought into the game and then wasted needlessly. Efficiency, people, efficiency is all I’m preaching here. Make SFA more compact (with perhaps a few less fat cats) and I’m sure we can find money to install it in the top flight.
We need more though. What if they actually are right and we can’t afford it? Well, then we’re fucked! Nah, just kidding. We now focus our attention on the Referee and his assistants. Now, currently the referee decides the role of his assistants. As in, if he wants the Linesmen to do nothing but keep an eye on offside then that is all he does, other than motioning his flag when the ball goes out of play of course (yes that does mean you’ve probably shouted abuse at a guy for not raising his flag for a foul when he was in fact TOLD not to). This needs to stop, a linesman should be giving his side of an event whenever possible. The Ref should of course have the final say but how can anyone make an educated decision without garnering all the facts, to ignore other perspectives is to set yourself up for the wrong decision. At least, listen to what they have to say, you are in communication with and ear and mouth piece after all. It can’t hurt, unless you want the rowdy crowd to continue chanting for your head to be put on a spike King Joffrey style but, you know, whatever, your choice dude.
My final point is perhaps the most prevalent. It is something that I have longed for: the Full-time referee. Currently we have Accountants and lawyers etc. running around fields with a great knowledge of the rules but little understanding of the game. The only Ref that I have had unwavering respect for is Pierluigi Collina. The man was a referee and a referee alone, during the week he would train to stay fit and also do his homework on the style of both teams he was officiating that weekend. This would allow him to anticipate and have a better understanding of where he would need to position himself, how best to let the game flow, how strict he’d have to be. Of course he would still judge players and incidents on their first hand merit but it does not hurt to have that back ground knowledge.
The Nani sending off is a prime example. Was his foot high? Yes. Did his studs make contact with the players? Yes. Was he in danger of serious injury? No! There was no malice in what happened and neither was there any force in the contact except that of the Real player running in on Nani. He made an attempt to control the ball and thought no one was around him. Was it a foul? Was he an idiot? Yes but common sense (and the rules as you can only be sent off for a dangerous tackle and if you thought that was a tackle you belong on a spike at the behest of the aforementioned King) would suggest that he was indeed nothing more than foolish, give him a yellow card and a shake of the head and let him get on with it. You cannot teach common sense but a greater understanding of that which you are officiating and of the people whose very careers and livelihoods depend on your whistle and decisions means that you can take an approach that is less rigid and gains you the respect of those involved in the could be again beautiful game .
Full-time Referees will not stop humans committing errors in their work but can limit them and give us a better standard of officiating that couple with the right technology can help return our game to its beautiful origins. A Linesman may not be able to spot if the ball is over the line but in every other aspect of the game we could see and improvement that puts the focus where it belongs: on the game itself. The Collina effect is perhaps more important than goal line tech as it affects every facet of the game including the making or hindering of goals. If we can’t have the tech then at least give our officials the chance to do their job to a standard the paying customer deserves.