We hear a lot about respect, or the lack of it, for match officials today. It is something that is being strongly touted by FIFA, and rightly so.
There is too much back chat from players, too much questioning of decisions, and far too much open dissent by people who are supposed to be showing good example to spectators and especially children.
I wonder if they realise the harm they are doing by their blatant defiance to referees, who are underpaid and underappreciated.
This is all the more harmful when it is shown on television and replayed several times from several different angles.
Having said that, referees also need to get their act together.
I tend to be the last one to criticise referees because I know what it's like. I was there and I was at the wrong end of the wrath of managers, players and spectators, sometimes to the detriment of my personal safety. I was taken out of a few soccer grounds in South Africa in the boot of a car and once in an armoured police personnel carrier.
I also received intimidating phone calls telling me what would happen to me and my family if a certain team did not win a particular game.
I always appreciated the efforts of the hard-working security personnel dispatched to protect us. Sometimes spectators were so incensed that a fatality, in my opinion, was only a whisker away.
A lot of this anger is fuelled by managers on the touchline ranting and raving when they don't agree with a particular decision.
And worst of all is when these managers then turn to the crowd and throw their hands in the air in such a way that says, 'See what's going on? It's not my fault that YOUR team is losing; it's the referee who's against us.'
In my opinion, referees are allowing team officials and players to get too close to them. I see it so often.
Picture the scene. A player is down injured and immediately the referee rushes over and is literally treating him on the ground. This is wrong. The job of the referee is to assess the injury and then take the appropriate action. If a trainer is required, the referee should call him on and then move away and take up his position for the resumption of the game.
With the benefit of television today, I also see it in the tunnel before the teams come on the pitch. All very social and cosy. Great. Then as soon as a decision goes against their team, the manager and players are screaming and
shouting looking for free-kicks and yellow or red cards to be dished out.
Last week we had Alex Ferguson among others criticising referees for decisions that they perceived were wrongly given against their respective teams and ranting and raving on the touchline and on television. This has to be stopped. Is there anyone in the English FA strong enough to stand up to these people?
My advice to referees is to do the job that you are poorly paid to do and stay away from players and team officials.
That's the only way to show yourself to be totally neutral, impartial, and objective and you will win the respect you so rightly deserve.
Errol Sweeney is a former League of Ireland and South African
Premier League referee