independent

Saturday 22 July 2017

Giving referees on stags the red card

Weird Wide World of Sport

Referee Anthony Taylor trying to hail a taxi on his stag do in Marbella
Referee Anthony Taylor trying to hail a taxi on his stag do in Marbella

Dave Devereux

I've said it before and I'll say it again: who in their right mind would want to be a referee?

No matter what decision the man in the middle makes somebody is bound to have a go.

'There's two teams out there.' 'Why don't you just throw on their jersey and be done with it? Are you effin blind ref?'

Anyone who attends sporting events with any sort of regularity has heard them all countless times and officials were very much in the spotlight at the weekend, with Kevin Friend and Anthony Taylor vilified for their admittedly shocking displays in the Manchester United v. Bournemouth and Swansea City v. Burnley matches.

There were so many shoves, stamps and elbows that went unpunished by Friend that I thought instead of Match on the Day I had tuned into a weekly MMA round-up. As for Taylor, his decision to award a penalty to Burnley after one of their own players, Sam Vokes, had clearly handled the ball was a mystery even Jessica Fletcher couldn't get to the bottom of.

One of the possible reasons put forward for the below-par shifts by some of the men in the middle was the claim that a number of top-flight referees went on a three-day jaunt to Marbella last week for the aforementioned Taylor's stag do.

Of course, we expect referees to be of a sufficient standard once they cross the white line, particularly in the Premier League where they're paid well to get the big decisions right, but is it really fair to think they shouldn't be allowed a life away from the glare of the television cameras?

Whatever about the rights and wrongs of going on a stag do in the height of the football season, one thing's for sure, I definitely wouldn't want to be jetting off on an away trip with a horde of referees. Any bloke that's been on one of these big boys shindigs knows what happens on tour stays on tour so any referee, assistant referee or fourth official calling for retrospective video evidence should be immediately shown the red card.

I'm far from the most graceful when it comes to water sports, but if I attempted a less than stylish belly flop into the pool I'd surely have to hang my head in shame after being booked for diving by one of the more fussy members of the gang.

We all know that it can be difficult to grab the barman's attention at the best of times when you're trying to get a round in in a packed hostelry, so imagine the added frustration of the offside flag being raised every time you make a premature burst forward when a gap appears between two punters who momentarily lose their concentration like a pair of Sunderland centre-halves.

I'm sure the lion's share of the travelling party would be a pleasure to deal with and know how to enjoy the sunny sojourn by mostly remaining in the background, but there's bound to be one or two attention-seeking referees craving the limelight to deflect the attention away from the groom-to-be by making numerous outrageous decisions and constantly waving their arms about in the air.

Then in the airport on the way home when all you want to do is curl up like a hungover hedgehog, the senior member of the group would have to sit down the decrepit bunch and assess their level of performance over the three days and condemn any sorry stragglers to a few Saturdays in the depths of the lower leagues.

I suppose one slight positive during the few days away would be that they should be able to calmly deal with any oafish thug that attempted to cause a ruck over a spilled drink or stray glance by deploying the Pierluigi Collina stare and pointing single-mindedly at the exit.

Speaking of a ruck, rugby referee Nigel Owens again illustrated that being universally liked also helps to gain the respect of the players and fans alike when he jokingly showed a ballboy, who had unwittingly struck him on the back of the head with the ball, a yellow card during Leinster's Pro12 clash with Scarlets at the RDS on Saturday. Now he definitely would be a good laugh on a stag weekend.

Gorey Guardian

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