Having been a referee for about 3 years, I know how trying it can be at times. You’re almost never appreciated, and one questionable call can make coaches, players, and spectators turn completely against you. And if that isn’t bad enough, even enforcing the written laws of the game can put you in a tough situation.
We saw a great example of this in the Bundesliga last Monday when Bayer Leverkusen took on Borussia Dortmund. Around the 65th minute, Leverkusen’s Steffan Kiessling fouled midfielder Sven Bender in Dortmund’s half of the field. The referee acknowledged the foul, and Dortmund quickly took the resulting free kick from the spot that the ball had rolled to after the foul. Dortmund’s subsequent counterattack was fierce, catching Leverkusen’s defense on their heels. Seconds after the free kick, the ball had made it to the other side of the pitch where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang buried it in the net for Dortmund.1
Furious protests from Leverkusen ensued as the players and Leverkusen manager Roger Schmidt contested the spot of the free kick. After a series of boisterous complaints, Schmidt was ordered by the referee to leave the dugout. After he stubbornly refused to do so, the referee left the field with his crew and suspended the match.1
Although it only took 8 minutes for play to resume without Schmidt on the touchline, the referee’s move was essentially unprecedented in the Bundesliga. Some individuals, like Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller, thought that it was excessive.1 However, I believe that the referee made the right decision in dealing with Schmidt’s stubbornness.
In many major soccer leagues today, referees simply are not given due respect. Many of their calls, whether correct or not, are met with staunch objection. Of course, minor instances of dissent here and there can certainly be overlooked, and there were many instances in my own refereeing career when I was able to ignore such backlash from players, coaches, and spectators. However, when I decided to discipline a player or give an order, I expected full cooperation.
The fact of the matter is that Schmidt directly disobeyed the referee’s order. In doing so, he showed a complete lack of respect for both the referee and the laws of the game. Herbert Fandel, chairman of the German football federation’s referee committee, noted that the referee made the correct decision in accordance with the rules by leaving the pitch with his crew.1 Aside from that, he also reminded everyone in that stadium that regardless of how they may have felt about him, they ultimately needed him.
Schmidt later apologized for his actions, claiming that he simply wanted an explanation from the referee.1 Unfortunately for him, they still resulted in a three-match stadium ban and a €20,000 ($21,864) fine from the German football association (DFB).2
Ultimately, I hope that this incident serves a reminder for players, coaches, and spectators alike, that the referee is the ultimate authority in the game, necessary for its existence. You might disagree with a call, and you might even be right. But when it’s your word against his, it might be a good idea to at least keep your cool and show a little respect.
1. Press, Associated. “Leverkusen Coach Defies Referee as Game Stops for 8 Minutes.” Daily Mail. February 21, 2016. Accessed February 27, 2016. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3457229/Dortmund-beats-Leverkusen-1-0-interuppted-Bundesliga-game.html.
2. Gibson, Sean. “Bayer Leverkusen Manager Roger Schmidt Gets Fine and Stadium Ban for Refusing to Be Sent off in Borussia Dortmund Match.” The Telegraph. February 24, 2016. Accessed February 27, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/bundesliga/12172238/Bayer-Leverkusen-manager-Roger-Schmidt-stadium-ban-fine-refusing-to-be-sent-off-vs-Borussia-Dortmund.html.