Saturday 22 July 2017

Referees must recover lost art of common sense

Saturday View

Sean Diffley

There are, of course, all sorts of referees. The words 'quantity' and 'quality' spring to mind. There are many good, honest referees devoted to their sport. I know because I'm acquainted with a few personally. Not many, but a few.

It's a bit like the Greek cynic Diogenes of Sinope, who carried a lamplight during the day because he was having trouble finding an honest man.

I'm not sure if he succeeded in his quest or whether someone like him would be an appropriate type to find Ibrahim Chaibou -- a referee from Niger who has gone missing.

Mr Chaibou took charge of the Argentina-Nigeria friendly last month and FIFA are suspicious about certain betting actions on that occasion, when Nigeria won 4-1.

The ref awarded a late penalty to Argentina, which was of tremendous help to a gambling syndicate that had wagered on five goals being scored.

Television pictures made it clear that the award of the penalty was wrong, but when FIFA sought explanations from the referee, they discovered that he had fled and left no forwarding address.

Why? And where did he go? It's a situation that appears to have led to a change in the basic justice theorem that one is innocent until proved guilty.

Anyway, Mr Chaibou is still missing and I suppose that we here in Ireland can feel a bit superior. We have our refereeing problems, but so far, none of the criticised officials have felt it fitting to flee.

I suppose our crowd have harder necks. Colm O'Rourke and Pat Spillane were in no doubt that the late free awarded to Dublin against Kildare was a wrong decision.

I doubt if I have ever heard the word 'wrong' pronounced more emphatically.

Then came the referees' boss to defend the action of the official who, he said, had the duty to decide between right and wrong and took the right decision. But what about basic common sense? Surely that was the verdict to be adopted.

A sensible decision would have pleased most and offended few and sent everybody home happy that another day would dawn.

After all, it's a sport, not a verdict to be sought by that international court in The Hague.

The most heinous decision made by a referee so far in 2011 was the call to award a try in Cardiff in the Wales-Ireland Six Nations game. It was clearly wrong to everyone's knowledge, except the Scottish touch judge Peter Allan and the South African referee Jonathan Kaplan.

That was just one incident illustrating what most outside the International Rugby Board recognise as being the major problem -- the failure to utilise the most competent referees at international level.

The strange aspect is that Kaplan is the most used referee at Test level in the world.

Those referees are chosen in some veiled vaults. We never hear how they are selected. It's so private it's like a meeting of the College of Cardinals.

As for the GAA, the major problem is the rules of the game, which do not seem to able to decide on what degree of physical contact is allowed.

So, for the most part, the referees cannot win.

Irish Independent

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