Monday, 23 May 2016

It’s time to get behind the Referees

It’s time to get behind the Referees

As I reflect on another season, there are some things I feel very strongly about. Refereeing is one of them. To be honest I am getting a bit fed up of people complaining about the standard of refereeing in Hong Kong. It is unnecessary and ultimately counter-productive.

I would say, 90% of the complaints are unjustified. By that I mean that the decisions taken on the pitch are actually correct under the laws of the game. I know this is true because every time someone complains about a specific event, I go back and review the incident on DVD (we record all of our matches). So why do people feel the need to complain? Well actually there are a number of reasons;

·         They genuinely believe decision was incorrect
·         The complainant doesn’t know the laws (it’s surprising how often this is the case even among players, coaches and team officials)
·         It’s an emotional over-reaction when decisions have not gone their way
·         The result was poor, so they must find someone else to blame
·         They’re jumping on a popular band wagon, ‘Fergie, Wenger, Mourinho etc complain about referees, so I should too’
·         In extreme cases it can even be pure vindictiveness

Some people may have other reasons that I don’t know about but I think they should take a leaf out of Claudio Ranieri’s book. When decisions didn’t go his way recently he refused to criticize the referee saying that the result would not change anyway and that bad decisions even out over the course of the season, so what is the point of complaining?

Everyone and I mean everyone makes mistakes from time to time and as fallible human beings, it is inevitable that referees will do so too. During the course of a match, officials make hundreds of decisions, the vast majority of which go unnoticed simply because they are correct and play continues. These decisions are made in a split second without the advantage of an elevated viewing position or instant replay. And like I say, even when complaints are made, the decision turns out to be correct nine times out of ten.

Believe me I would have a big problem if I thought the few mistakes that happen were made deliberately e.g. to favour a particular team or to influence the outcome of a match. But that’s not the case, I’m sure of that. Genuine mistakes I can accept and so should everyone else. The most important thing is that we learn from our mistakes. The performance of every HKFA referee is scrutinized by a qualified assessor. If corrective action is deemed necessary by our Referee Manager and the Referee Committee, it is taken. This can mean suspension, a period of re-education or other sanctions. Our Referee Department is trying hard to recruit, train, evaluate and improve referees.

I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement because there always is and I think the referees themselves would be the first to admit that. In the same way as there is room for improvement in all aspects of football in Hong Kong including the quality of players, coaches, team officials, infrastructure etc. We are on a journey and we all need to work together, rather than be divisive.

The reason why I say complaining is counter-productive is because football needs referees. Without them there is no match, full stop! The more we complain, the less likely it is that we get people wanting to be referees.

So in my opinion people should accept that mistakes will occur and let the HKFA get on with selecting, training and (where necessary) re-training referees.

Where these people are associated with football clubs they also have a responsibility to educate their players and coaches to respect the referee’s decision and get on with the game. Far too often this season we have seen players surrounding referees shouting and swearing and far too often we have seen coaches screaming and gesticulating wildly, sometimes even coming onto the pitch (for which they should be disciplined). This sort of behaviour is unacceptable, sets a bad example and is far worse in my opinion than a referee making an occasional honest mistake.

It’s time to support our referees not disrespect them and if people can’t do that then perhaps they should put on a black jersey themselves and see if they can do a better job.

Mark Sutcliffe, CEO