The never-ending love-hate relationship between football managers and the referees has prompted us to look into this topic. Referees have come under immense scrutiny, especially off-late by fans and managers who demand more transparency. Should this be the case, and referees should do post-match interviews, or things should proceed as they are going on?
A defeat for any manager is a hard pill to swallow but is blaming the referee the only way out of it? Lately, it has become a trend in many post-match interviews, the latest being Liverpool vs West Ham United, where Jurgen Klopp feels his team was undone by poor refereeing. It is interesting to see that managers never complain when they end up on the winning side despite a few critical decisions going against them. So, are these excuses to get away with a defeat, or do they have a point here?
Referees, after all, are humans, and like all of us, they are prone to making mistakes. It would be unfair to expect 100% accuracy from them making decisions, but this by no means points out that they make wrong decisions most times. There is not much that football can learn from rugby, but if at all something, they can mic up the referees for better communication between the officials and the coaching staff and fans.
To be fair to the managers and fans, sometimes refereeing decisions are inexcusable. There are many such instances, and the one that springs to my mind is the 2009 Champions League semi-final second-leg between Chelsea and Barcelona. Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo made a series of apparent errors, which cost Chelsea a place in the Champions League final, and Barcelona eventually went on to win it. UEFA handed Didier Drogba a six-game European ban following his comments after the final whistle, “Are you watching this? It’s a disgrace. It’s a f***ing disgrace”, which he apologised for later.
Times have changed since, with the introduction of VAR (Video Assistant Referee) to help out officials. They have the advantage of looking at the footage again before making a decision. By any chance, there is still no denial of the enormous pressure they are under, plus the time constraint. In contrast, the coaching staff and fans have no time constraint whatsoever and the leisure of seeing the footage multiple times from various angles. The live match commentary or post-match analysis do not help the referees either. As a spectator, it drives you to think their way, which might not necessarily be right at all times.
Imagine if the referees started doing post-match interviews. Some might accept they made a mistake, and some are stubborn and stick to their decisions. What next? Where are we going from here? The ones who accept will still get abused by fans as they cost their team the game, and those who don’t get the same treatment because the fans did not get to hear what they wanted to, which is unacceptable. Fans sometimes go as far as giving referees death threats and abusing their families. Nobody is subject to abuse, let alone the referees. The only real winner out of this situation is the media outlets benefitting from several controversial stories.
Former referee Howard Webb admitted that he sometimes thought about what to have for dinner during a game only to realise he had probably missed a foul. He wouldn’t be human if he didn’t do so. But imagine the outrage had he said this in a post-match interview, and clearly, the game had finished. Neither team could do anything about it. It would only be about how the media could frame their post-match stories. I firmly believe The Football Association have got this right with Law 5, which states the referees have complete authority over the game.