Lar Corbett: 'Respect is a two-way street'
If players want to earn respect from referees, they have to show respect to the men in black. Most complaints about referees arise when teams feel they have been hard done by in matches. But specific examples of where the referee actually changed the result of a game by making a decision are few enough.
Picking out individual decisions at the end of a match and then analysing them in minute detail can convince anybody that they should feel aggrieved. But a match is a series of plays -- and if teams are going to focus in on what they feel are unjust calls, why not analyse decisions from earlier in the game? In this year's hurling championship, the standard of refereeing has been top class. Refs have not influenced the results, and their approach has been to apply common sense and, in a broad sense, allow the games to flow.
If they wanted, they could blow for three or four times as many frees by strictly enforcing the letter of the law, but this would ruin the game and lead to stop-start shoot-outs between opposing free-takers.
Sometimes you hear about the perceived influence of the referee assessors sitting in the stands -- and that's what makes a referee blow excessively. Refs are under enough pressure from players and crowds.
They don't need to be reffing games as if they're taking an exam as well. Giving linesmen and umpires more power and opportunities to provide feedback to referees would be one possible improvement, particularly with some of the stuff that goes on off the ball. Most players are well behaved when the ball is in their area -- but it's not always that way when play switches to the other end of the field.
But generally, the standard of refereeing is good, especially at inter-county level. At club level, there are occasions when referees take charge of games, but they are also playing or involved with teams in the same competitions. This is something that could be tidied up quite easily.
Also, if referees do matches with the same teams too often, they have a tendency to expect certain players to make the same fouls. The more variety in selecting referees and keeping things fresh, the better for themselves and for players.
You've got to admire the job that they do. They put in a huge sacrifice for scant reward.
For players, there is the thrill of playing and the possibility of winning the big prizes. But the referee finds himself in a team of one when things go wrong. A small group of professional refs is one option that might make it easier to recruit and retain referees. Amateur whistlers, or indeed amateur anything, shouldn't be subjected to such intense levels of public scrutiny and criticism.
The vast majority are well prepared and want to do their best, but if referees went professional, you would see even higher levels of officiating. If the time available to them to prepare increases, it's inevitable that the end result will also improve.
However, you look at other codes and hear fans complaining that referees make mistakes, even though they are professional -- Manchester United get the big calls at Old Trafford, goals aren't given in FA Cup semi-finals, the Irish rugby team in the second Test against the All Blacks looked like they were hard done by...
So even with professional refs, there is no guarantee that things will run smoothly. They're human, after all. My own experience is that showing respect to a referee goes a long way. There's no point in barking at him -- it gets you nowhere.
Instead, my approach is to query a decision in a calm manner. When you do that, you'll receive an answer. Let's not forget that the referee wants the game to run smoothly too. The last thing he wants is to find himself in the eye of a storm.
If you think you've been hard done by but the call hasn't gone your way, move on. And players are not always right either. At times, we're also to blame for the stop-start nature of some games.
We're the ones doing the fouling, the pulling and dragging. I'm sure that a referee constantly blowing for frees gets frustrated too. He must wish that players would stop committing those silly fouls.
As a user of Twitter, I've noted some of the criticism that has come the way of inter-county referees from players. And it's a one-sided street as far as I can see. Players have this medium to express their views and let off steam, but referees can't respond. And they're the same as players. They have to go to work to and get on with their lives. Some of the criticism that comes their way is terribly unfair, and if there's a breakdown in communication between players and referees, it's very difficult to find that common ground.