This week Roberto Mancini complained about the slipping standards of referees, as well as adding a somewhat cowardly accusation of bias in favor of United. True, there have been some bizarre decisions, but the constant attacks against referees in the professional game are unhelpful at best. Managers are often pressurizing players as their responsibilities as role models, and managers should realize that the same weight lies upon their own shoulders. Many an amateur team player or manager will be balling at a referee for not giving a call a certain way this weekend. It’s only natural for us to lose our temper when things don’t go our way, especially when we want to win so badly, but the easiest way to accept referees errors and to be philosophical is to appreciate how tough it is.
I came across this interview between managerial legend Brian Clough and BBC football pundit John Motson this week, and what Clough says about the treatment of referees at 4:45 in the video is really insightful:
Nobody is making this point strongly enough today about how hard it is for a referee – making split second decisions when a mass of legs are tangling. The reason why is because, though most of us have played the game, very few have refereed. Brian’s son Nigel Clough, now Derby County manager and a former England player, once refereed a junior game I played in. He was still a professional at the time and he wanted to see what refereeing a load of teenagers would be like. It’s fair to say he was utterly attrocious as a referee and admitted as much after the game. I refereed the odd game at college (mainly our ladies team) and it was not at all easy, even with all of about 12 supporters watching, let alone 30,000!
With managers and the media perpetually undermining the refereeing upper echelons, it also undermines referees throughout the game and removes the level of respect necessary. My rugby playing friends are always keen to explain the superior civility of rugby precisely due to the fact that the referees are afforded the utmost respect. One of them recently sent on this amusing video of a ref putting a player in his place with a negative comparison to soccer:
One guy I played soccer a lot with over the years, and who had also played a lot of rugby, insists on calling the referee “sir”. It caused derision among some of London’s soccer playing low life, but I always admired it. It also helped that he was a superb player.
So, back to Mr Mancini and his colleagues distinct lack of respect. Roberto Mancini played 32 games for Italy and over 545 top flight club games. My question to him would be, how many games of eleven aside football has he ever refereed? I’d like to see him out with a whistle on some torn up pitch refereeing Moss Side vs Halton Juniors on a Sunday morning and giving a penalty the wrong way in a game like that.