There was an “aggressive and hostile” MLS player allegedly “Forcibly removed by stadium security from the referees’ locker room at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.” The very next evening, in Vancouver, the Whitecaps players grabbed referee Tim Ford and surrounded himangry. Objects and obscenities rained down on Ford as a difficult day of thankless work came to an end. On the second straight night of the MLS playoffs, a beaming coach received a red card and thousands of fans were furious.
They were angry at the general scourge of football, the officials. Week after week, the sport’s strongest men beat up the referees. Hours before the MLS player, allegedly FC Cincinnati’s Matt Miazga entered the officials’ dressing room, Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta railed against non-appearances in the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle, calling it “an absolute disgrace”. The following day his club was sacked an astonishing statement“fully supported” Arteta’s comments and said the Premier League’s officiating body “urgently needs to address the standard of office”.
The suggestion, and apparently the growing consensus, is that the league has a refereeing problem.
The irony is that Arsenal, Arteta, Miazga and Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini all contributed to a much deeper problem.
It’s a problem that US Soccer CEO JT Batson recently called an “epidemic”: No one wants to be a referee anymore. “It’s a professional crisis,” said Roberto Rosetti, head of UEFA’s refereeing department. said last year. For professional players and coaches who earn six and seven figures, it’s a hidden crisis. But for grassroots football leaders on multiple continents, it is acute and alarming.
“The number of games that are canceled every weekend because there are not enough referees is really disheartening,” Batson said in September.
And The reason for this is that there are not enough refereesThe problem, of course, is that they are treated horribly everywhere they go.
They are yelled at and threatened by teenage soccer parents, a notorious breed; And no, Arteta can’t do anything about it. Parents and constantly angry youth coaches are a deep-rooted plague for which there is no easy cure. Their behavior has become so bad that the International Football Association Board (IFAB) has taken action Grassroots referees are allowed to wear body cameras “to frighten.”
“This trial,” said the IFAB, “is part of an overall effort to identify possible measures to improve player/coach behavior during matches.”
But the unruly and sometimes inhumane behavior is not just a grassroots problem. It is modeled and implicitly promoted by superstars and millionaires more than 300 days a year. Some of this is understandable emotion, an unavoidable consequence of high-stakes football. But it appears that players and coaches are increasingly overstepping boundaries, dehumanizing referees and spoiling games on the world’s most visible playing fields. After the Whitecaps’ loss to LAFC, Sartini He reportedly opened his press conference with a joke about Ford, the referee, possibly being found later that night floating face down in nearby False Creek.
Sartini, who delighted the fans an extravagant tirade as he left the fielddrove away Call Ford “a disaster”, “shameful”, “fucking terrible” and “a disgrace”. He accused Ford – who is actually “a good guy,” he admitted – for a variety of things, from his players’ nervousness to the result. “We didn’t have a fair chance,” he complained.
He will likely be fined. Miazga, meanwhile, could be suspended. The Professional Soccer Referees Association referred both incidents to MLS, calling Sartini’s comments “disgusting” and Miazga’s behavior “unprecedented” and “unacceptable.” The league said it was investigating. FC Cincinnati declined to comment. Unnamed sources however said the Cincinnati Enquirer and The Athletic that Miazga’s exchange with the referees after the game did not concern stadium security and was less egregious than what the PSRA – a union that represents referees in the United States and Canada – had described.
Fans naturally used these reports to further criticize the referees. And in Vancouver, they voiced a common criticism of public officials: that no one holds them accountable.
Which is of course absurd. “This is complete nonsense,” said Stuart Carrington, a British psychologist and author of one Book about refereeingsaid Yahoo Sports last year. “Referees are [some] one of the most responsible people in the game. You will be evaluated after each game day. We did a webinar with some of them last year [English] Match officials. One of them was actually kind enough to show us his score sheet for a game he played this weekend. It records how much they run. The distance they cover, how many sprints they have completed. Then every important decision is examined. … They look at every free kick, they look at every important decision, every card given, every foul.”
The Premier League then asks for explanations. It grades civil servants. As in any top league, they are promoted and demoted based on performance and aim to attract the very best referees to officiate the games. There are no sinister motives or widespread system deficiencies behind this every Official error. There are fair debates about how referees are taught and managed or how they are paid. However, the reason for most controversial decisions is simple: football, like most team sports, is incredibly difficult to officiate.
It’s also coming under increasing scrutiny, thanks in part to VAR. Every decision is analyzed at a professional level and played back again and again in 4K or HD. And any questionable call – not necessarily a mistake, just a subjective interpretation! – Makes players and coaches feel like victims or act like children.
And every time they do this in front of millions of television viewers, they normalize the behavior that turns people away from one of football’s integral professions.
This is football’s refereeing problem. And many people who would claim that they want to fix the problem are actually part of it.
The solution is complex. For governing bodies, it’s about breaking down barriers to entry and publicly promoting the value of referees, who often feel unappreciated.
But for players, coaches and fans, it’s simple: Start treating them like people, fellow human beings who make split-second decisions that occasionally turn into harmless mistakes.