Friday, 27 April 2012

Refereeing: So little to gain, yet so much to lose.

They say a picture tells a 1,000 words. Boy, didn’t that certainly happen a few Sundays ago.

Martin Atkinson was hammered home with criticism for his decision to give Juan Mata’s effort the green light to make it two nil to Chelsea. 

Everyone was having a dig at Atkinson’s decision. Everyone.

In the virtual worlds, in the pubs and in the stands, Martin Atkinson become the butt of jokes, irony and frustration to some.  

And let’s face it, everyone got involved. Everyone had a say on Atkinson’s decision.

Most were commenting on how the ref’s decision had cost Tottenham their final chance of silverware this season.  And this anger quickly transferred from the Tottenham stands at Wembley to all around the globe.
Yet when it was revealed during the game Martin Atkinson was to be a linesman for the euros, it was met with a chorus of laughter. People were questioning how can such a man be given the responsibility of checking whether the ball had crossed the line, when he failed at it when it really mattered.

I won’t lie, I had a chuckle when I heard that news during the game. 

But there is one after the semi-final which typifies just how much anger there was towards Martin Atkinson. Harry Redknapp in his post-match comments revealed Atkinson had apologised for his mistake. 

A referee apologising for his mistake? That is practically unheard of in the English game. No scratch that. It’s practically unheard of in any league, nation or even continent. 

But apologising for his ‘mistake’ paints a sad sad picture. It shows how emotionally hurt, damaged and effected Atkinson was for going with his gut. 

Just imagine what he was going through during the game.The incident must have been swirling again and again round his head, with him thinking, did I really get that right? Maybe I didn’t…

It’s crazy, one tough decision, could not only have broken his career at the top level, but it could have also broken Spurs’ chance for trophies yet another season. 

That’s the life of a referee, you can’t win, but you’ve got so much to lose.

But when THAT picture was revealed a few hours later, people were quick to lay into Spurs, for trying to hide behind the excuse of an ‘unjust’ decision at the time. It wasn’t just the fans who were saying this, it was football journalists too.

Indeed, Tottenham had got it wrong, it was a goal. But none of us can lie, we all got it wrong.
We all thought that goal was certainly not in. 

Yet when it turned out it was a genuine goal, no one praised Martin Atkinson’s fine decision. No one.

Call it luck, fortunate or whatever, but for Atkinson to make a correct decision within a split second with all that pressure, it shows what a decent referee he is.

Everyone had something to say about Martin Atkinson when the decision was up in the air. But when it turned out he was right, those who heavily damned him did not show an ounce of respect towards the broken Martin Atkinson.

There has been a lot of talk about the drop in standards of refereeing in England. The likes of Roberto Mancini have been quite vocal about it, but how can we expect the standards to get better if we keep criticising, every wrong decision they make?

Sadly, in modern football, there is little appeal in becoming a referee. All referees are subject to criticism, abuse and nit picking. 

I firmly believe referees need to be praised more and it should be emphasised just how hard their job is.
Think about it, they get one angle, one chance and literally one second to make a choice on a decision which could change a team’s fate. 

While we, get various angles, various chances and a good few minutes to see if the decision was right or wrong.

Indeed, Atkinson’s decision against Chelsea was justified by technology, but how many referees have ultimately made the right decision but because of the lack of technology have seen their refereeing careers being tarnished? 

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a support group for it.

The reality is, referees need help. They need technology. The game is so quick, so advanced and there is so much hanging on games that one small error could cost a team severely. 

But till then, I feel referees need to be given more praise, more respect and more empathy. 

Referees are humans just like us, believe it or not. And if we want the standards of refs to improve we have to reinvigorate the value of being a referee. 

Whenever we think of refs now, we think of middle aged men, making bad decisions. 

Martin Atkinson decision against Spurs could have cost him his career as a top level referee. Fortunately for him it didn’t. But without technology, one wonders how many more referees careers will be instantly terminated by one error in the heat of the moment?

1 comment:

  1. I don't think that this picture is conclusive. Sure, it looks like it might be over but there are several other angles (and video) which seem to show that it wasn't. If after all of this analysis we are still not 100% either way the ref can't give the goal. I certainly don't think it's bad that he apologised, nobody expects refs to be perfect, just fair, and it is difficult for them to demonstrate that if they say nothing at all after a game.


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