Microphones: A Refereeing Solution

Referee Ovrebo is surrounded by outraged Chelsea players at the final whistle.

Referee Ovrebo is surrounded by outraged Chelsea players at the final whistle.

Having watched the great Champions League semi-final 2nd leg between Chelsea and Barcelona this morning, I was pleased to see that the standard of attacking play was as high as we had hoped for, and I was gutted for Chelsea, to come so close after playing so well, only to see it all slip away at the very last second, was harsh. Worse though, was the refereeing, and both sides can feel hard done by after another shambolic refereeing performance, following on from yesterday’s game.

It is such a shame that such a good game of football will ultimately be remembered not for two great goals, not for some heroic defending from Chelsea, some persistent attacking from Barca and for the result, which is of course always remembered, but instead for the tragic refereeing that plagued it. It’s becoming an all too familiar trend, and it needs to be addressed. Fear not though, for (as Baldrick would say) I have a cunning plan…

Now there were, as far as I’m concerned, a number of things that took place in and around the Chelsea vs. Barcelona match that impacted negatively on the game as a whole, and that all relate to the problem of refereeing that we seem to be contending with on an almost weekly basis. Happily, I think my solution solves all three, so I shall run you through them all and then present my solution.

First of all, it has to be said, that the behaviour of some of the Chelsea players was quite out of order. Watching Michael Ballack chase after the referee, waving his arms in front of his eyes and shouting at him sends the wrong message to young kids watching. Seeing John Terry (and to be fair, most of the Chelsea squad) streaming straight up to the referee and launching a tirade of protests instead of shaking their opponents hands is also not a great look. And seeing Didier Drogba run up to the camera and shout that it’s a “f***king disgrace” probably doesn’t instill the values of sportsmanship and pleasant language that we’d like in the youth of the nation.

Ballack was seemingly intent on eating the referee...

Ballack was seemingly intent on eating the referee...

The actions of these Chelsea players seriously undermines both their position as role models to children all across the country and indeed around the world, but it also shows blatant disregard to the respect campaign that has seen so much attention this season. As professional sportsmen they should know that they set an example to the world, and act appropriately.

However, I will admit that i actually feel that the players were almost justified in their reactions and behaviour to what is the second problem I’ll discuss: the standard of refereeing. Anyone watching that game will have seen that the referee had an absolute shocker, he was just plain terrible. It went both ways too, I think Chelsea should have had two penalties (one for the foul on Malouda that was given as a free kick and one for blatant hand ball), and I also think that the decision to send off Eric Abidal was blatantly incorrect.

At the end of the day, not only has the referee had a serious impact on the outcome of the game, in that had Chelsea been given the penalties they probably deserved, they would surely have won the tie, but his actions have also had an effect beyond the match, because Abidal will now miss the final unjustly, because the referee made the wrong decision; as happened to Darren Fletcher last night. Ultimately then, the referee has had a far too obvious effect on the match, and he has all but ruined it, and has certainly taken the shine off what should have been a great, competitive match.

Furthermore, the pitiful refereeing display has also given wing to almost inevitable rumours, which are the third problem I will outline. Jose Boswinga has levelled accusations at the referee of being “bought”, and various parties have suggested that the referee may have been ordered by UEFA head-honcho Michel Platini to attempt to prevent a second consecutive all-English Champions League final.

This referee was bought. I do not know if he is a referee or a thief. There are no words to describe the person that was on the pitch here” – Jose Boswinga, Chelsea (Goal.com)

You will get no argument from me that Platini is incredibly anti-English, he has proved that time after time, but to allege so seriously against him and UEFA and the referee is probably over-stepping the line. The fact that Abidal was sent off and that Barcelona’s goal came when the game was seemingly lost suggest that the referee wasn’t trying to swindle Chelsea, though granted, the penalty decisions were indeed mystifying, and certainly kept Barcelona in with a shout, that ultimately became a roar.

Ultimately, I think all three of these thing are bad news for football as a whole. The players need to remember that they are in positions of influence and responsibility; the referees need to improve their overall standard of performance because they seem to get worse and worse; and we need to establish a sense of fairness and trust in football, so that we can play the game in the spirit of togetherness that it can undoubtedly create. But how can we achieve this?

For many years now the problem of how to improve refereeing and decrease controversy has been raging, and everything from tracking chips in the ball to extra officials behind each goal has or will soon have been trialled at various levels. But Ockham’s Razor essentially tells us that often the simplest solution is the most effective (the actually theory is more complex, but for our purposes, this works) and I think that there is a simple solution out there, and staring us in the face.

All we need to do is to fit each match referee with a microphone, which relays the sound not only to the people overseeing the match in the crowd, but to the TV stations covering the game so that the spectators at home can hear what the referee, and the players, are saying to one another. It has been done in Rugby and I think also in Basketball before with great success, and given that referees already have mics to communicate with their linesman, it won’t actually be very difficult to implement.

Best of all though, it solves all of the problems I outlined above:

1) Players will no longer be able to shout and scream at the referees, because they will know that we can hear every word they are saying. And if they do continue to shout and scream unabashed, their sponsors will soon retract the very lucrative deals that give them such a luxurious lifestyle because they will not want to be affiliated with such figures of obscenity.

2) Referees will have to justify their decisions on the spot, if a player should question them politely. This will not necessarily ensure that refereeing decisions will be more accurate, but because they give us a real time explanation of questionable decisions we are more likely to be able to sympathise with the restrictions that having to make a judgement based on a singular, real time viewing of an incident naturally accrues.

3) Following from 2), any allegations of dodgy dealing or ‘buying the referee’ will be rendered null and void because the referee will be forced to validate any controversial decision with an explanation. If he is able to come up with an explanation that is legitimate and correct to a degree which takes into account human margin for error, then there can be no allegations of fraudulent or biased behaviour.

As you can see then, simply by giving referees microphones which are connected to TV cameras in the manner in which is used in Rugby (Union, I think), the problems of respect and consistency should be severely reduced. And after all, we’re not asking for perfection, we all accept that it is impossible to get every decision right, especially without the aid of TV replays (which is a whole other argument). But in my opinion, this simple measure could be introduced with very little fuss and would make a big difference.

So come on football fans, tell me what you think. I’m going to start up a new page on my site called ‘Campaign!‘ which will detail my thoughts on this issue and urge the game’s authorities to consider this proposal. I’m going to try and get the campaign out there in the football world, through various means, and maybe, just maybe, we may be able to make a difference in the game that we love so much, but that seems to draw ever further away from us.

Please leave a comment regarding this post – I really would like to know whether you agree that micing up referees could make a big difference in football.
Thanks for reading.

PS. For a look back at my previous in-depth look at refereeing in England, click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

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4 Responses to Microphones: A Refereeing Solution

  1. Paul Stevens says:

    Watched the test match today,Replays shown from all angles within 2 to 5 sec.What are football authorities so frightened of using this tech.Shakey

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