Fox Sports and the FFA have made their bravest move yet, having announced today that the referees will be “miked-up” during this years A League finals series.
Viewers will be able to listen to the referees outlining decisions to the players as is done in many other sports. Let us hope it is more successful than when the same thing was introduced in the English Premier League about twenty years ago; it was abandoned after less than a month.
The reason it was abandoned was that unlike sports such as rugby union where players accept or question a referees decision politely, the amount of swearing that was picked up on the referees microphone and the abuse he was heard to receive saw complaints mad to the television station and proved an embarrassment to the game. In fact referees were seen to cover the microphone when discussing decisions with players so that the conversation could not be picked up.
Interestingly the press release from the Football Federation of Australia states, “The microphones will not be broadcast live but used as part of the Fox Sports coverage.” That makes it very unclear as to when viewers will in fact hear what the referee has to say and also whether it will enhance the viewing experience at all.
CEO of the FFA David Gallop who has come from rugby league where they have had referees “miked up” has been quoted as saying “We believe the extra microphone is a significant step forward and gives fans a greater insight into what’s happening on the pitch. Sports fans around the world are privileged to be able to hear the thoughts of the referees and we’re pleased Hyundai A-League fans will be able to experience this as we move into a thrilling Finals Series.” One cannot help feeling this is a naive statement from a man new to football.
Brisbane Roar, Western Sydney Wanderers, Central Coast Mariners, Melbourne Victory, Sydney FC and Adelaide United will all take part in what is as always expected to be a very passionate Hyundai A-League 2014 Finals Series. Let us all hope that the microphones do not pick up too much of that passion when it bubbles to the surface as we may end up seeing players being charged with bringing the game into disrepute for their communications with the referees; some may say that could in fact be a good thing.
Of course if the officials were shown the same respect as they are in other codes this would not be such an issue. There is no doubt the A-League is not the Premier League, but passions still run hot and the language pitch side is very different to that in the corporate boxes. Let us hope that this does not backfire and Fox Sports do control just how much goes to air. The trouble is if it is being censored and the debatable decisions being edited out due to players vehemently disagreeing with the decision one wonders why the referees are being “miked-up” at all.