Referee Complaints: A Part of the Game, or Pulling the Game Apart?

By | January 22, 2015

Is complaining to referees in soccer truly a part of the game? Or is it simply pulling the game apart?

Although lacking a soccer background, sports have been a huge part of my life: I play lacrosse and also participated in football and basketball. The soccer culture is unfamiliar to me, and although I have watched a few World Cups now, did not understand the lifestyle and die-hard passion soccer fans overseas have for their teams until I spent time in Florence this summer during the World Cup. Watching the streets erupt after Italy’s big first win, and then deflate over the next week or so as they finished a disappointing overall performance without advancing to the next stage. Although I consider myself a big Baltimore Ravens fan, by no means will the Ravens playoff loss affect my attitude more than a few hours after the game.

After reading the article “Outrage over Premier League Officials is Damaging the Game” by Rory Smith, it gave me insight into how big of a deal refereeing and complaining about referees has been in the soccer experience. My point here is not to argue the quality of officials and whether or not their performance has declined, however to argue that the focus on officiating takes away from the game. The constant arguing and bickering, while present in many sports, slows the game and takes away from the focus on the quality of play. Refereeing is subjective and during the course of a high paced game, it can be tough to get every call right and there are examples throughout the world of sports over the years of poor calls that have decided outcomes and shifted momentum in the course of a game. The addition of replay has helped to reduce these judgment errors in many sports.

The problem with the constant complaining about referees is also that it creates excuses and allows coaches and players to blame others for the outcome. Post game, instead of reflecting on a loss and how one could have performed better, or feeling satisfied after a win, the discussion too often comes back to the officials. Where is the accountability? Why might one think that complaining will get him or her anywhere? Clearly, sometimes this bickering might be rewarded. In March of 2014, Roma and Sassuolo were competing in a Serie A match where a referee overturned a decision after the constant complaining.

How can credibility be preserved if a referee allows this to happen? A decision, once made final, is final, unless using an instant replay to determine the opposite call should have been made.

It is an interesting discussion, but I have always been raised in a sporting environment revolving around respecting officials and taking accountability for the outcome, positive or negative. Not every call will be perfect and it is something every athlete  has to deal with. No team or player is entitled to more calls or more discretion, and allowing for this takes away the focus of the true essence of soccer, and any sport. The constant begging for calls, flopping to sway the officials, and blame of outcomes on officials are things I personally believe have no room in any sport.

2 thoughts on “Referee Complaints: A Part of the Game, or Pulling the Game Apart?

  1. Norman Stephenson

    Referee’s are making things like the Spanish La Liga a joke. The number of times I and my son have watched Barcelona and noted the decisions being clearly wrong is amazing. Its about time this was looked into before too much damage is done. There is a forth official who could be watching on a video screen and helping the Ref out with decisions as he would usually have a better view. Just been watching the Celta v Real Madrid match. There was a clear handball by a real player in the box and the referee was only yards away with a clear view but there was nothing given, not even a yellow card. Is it any wonder that Real Madrid are ALWAYS under suspicion when they are close to winning the league title. In games where there are questionable decisions time and time again it begins to look as though the referee is being paid by the club……
    This is not just in Spain but is creeping across to the British Premier league. Another thing is that it is about time there was a new Trophy. One for the best player/actor. So many times you see a player rolling around in agony only to jump up and go running off at full speed as soon as his opponent gets a yellow card and he gets the free kick. Free kicks also need looking at I was watching a match where the referee was talking to a player and there was one on the ground and the free kick was taken WITHOUT the referee blowing his whistle for it to be taken, the goal was scored and the referee allowed it to stand.
    All this is making the great game of football into a laughing stock. DO SOMETHING NOW….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *