Being a referee or an umpire in any sport is a thankless task, and one that few ever receive the respect or credit they deserve. The reason being that good officials are hardly noticed while bad ones stand out.
In football of the past decade there has been a clear shift in the way coaches and players treat referees. Let us be honest player have always argued with referees since time immemorial, but it had reached levels rarely seen outside of South America since the dawn of the new century.
What exacerbated the situation on many occasions when the referee had been wrong was that there was no comment from the referee or his governing body. However there were occasions when a referee did put his hand up post match with the benefit of a television replay and say he made a mistake, and for that he should always be credited.
Coaches always argued that such mistakes could cost them their jobs and it was hard to argue with that sentiment.
However the new English Premier League season has seen a definite shift in the way the referees are officiating games, and it is refreshing. It has been noticeable how the match officials are dealing with some of the situations that arise.
The referees have been quick to not allow players to get away with falling down at the slightest touch or contact.
There have been a lot less free kicks awarded for deliberate diving. It would appear that the referees have wised-up and are not being conned into giving as many dubious penalties or corner kicks.
It has been a long time coming but it is a most welcome change. A change that can only be good for the game as a whole.
Another area that has seen a real clampdown is the behaviour of the Managers on the sideline. So far three EPL managers have received their marching order this season, and you can expect more to follow.
Stoke City’s manager Mark Hughes was sent off during his side’s 4 – 0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspurs. Hughes was reported by the Fourth official for going outside his technical area to protest a decision and used improper language.
Then David Moyes received similar treatment when Sunderland played Southampton, and it was reported his “constant chirping at the fourth official” led to his sanction.
Then came the most publicised sending off to new Manchester United and ex Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho. This happened in United’s match against Burnley. The incident, which appeared led to Mourinho’s removal from the technical area, related to a disallowed penalty appeal late in the first half. Mr Mourinho was so incensed that he made his feelings abundantly clear to the match officials.
Some may say that the referees are being over zealous this EPL season, but as respect for the job that they do has clearly been eroded over the years there is another argument that says that these actions have been a long time coming. It would be hard to argue against that in the long term this crack down will be good for the game.
It is also hard to argue against the correlation that money came into the game at the same time the officials lost the players respect. If you feel that was not the case, then a stronger argument can be mounted that money was a key contributing factor to the game descending into a showcase of diving, shamming and cheating by the players. Actions that in their abundance, have taken some of the joy away from watching the game; that, and the defensive approach adopted by so many coaches!