‘“Passion” is the currency fools use to justify referee abuse’.
Martin Cassidy, CEO of the charity Ref Support UK, stated this after a myriad of disgusting behaviour towards referees this weekend. Cassidy quote provoked me to look back at the last round of premier league matches and highlight some of the incidents that took place.
I was watching the Liverpool, Manchester City match, as I often am on football match days with friends in Molly Malones and we all discussed how uncomfortable we felt watching the way Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp berated the referee’s assistant resulting in him receiving a red card. The anger in his face is clearly shown in photos and Klopp himself admitted “Something snapped in that situation, I’m not proud of that – I deserved a red card, and the way I looked in this moment is not right,”.
In the 55-year-old German’s post-match interview he insisted his behaviour had been borne out of frustration at what he viewed as the officials’ failure to award his team a free-kick for a challenge he deemed to be a foul on Mohamed Salah.
Klopp is awaiting the referee’s report regarding further punishment after he received a red card in the match. Former Premier League referee Peter Walton claimed that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp should be “properly punished” for his sending off in his sides victory over rivals Manchester City.
All the controversy from this weekend, timely, also came on a weekend where Merseyside Youth games were postponed following ‘multiple incidents of inappropriate and threatening behaviour’ towards match officials since the season began. Referee abuse seems to be filtering down into grassroots football and the concerning fact is that, as said by Cassidy, “people mimic what they see on TV” so it needs to be appropriately punished.
There is a difference between critiquing a referee decision and being abusive. A clear difference.
The Football Association (FA) is also looking into incidents on and off the pitch at Old Trafford as Manchester United players surrounded referee Craig Pawson after feeling they deserved to be awarded a goal when Ronaldo got the ball in the back of the net.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner felt he scored a legitimate goal after they felt that the Magpies defender, Fabian Schar, had rolled a free-kick back to Pope and therefore the ball was in play. Nick Pope did not move as Ronaldo closed in on him, suggesting he thought the kick was still to be taken. Referee Craig Pawson clearly felt the same way as the England goalkeeper and so ruled out the goal causing an eruption of fury for the Manchester United players. Pawson was swarmed by the players in red and Erik ten Hag also was letting out his anger on the fourth official. Looking at the pictures from the incident, it certainly makes me feel uncomfortable to think how Pawson was feeling and although he is a professional referee, he should not have to experience such aggression on the pitch.
After the incidents of the weekend, the Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe says he tries to make an effort to control himself when he is on the touchline.
Importantly he said “I am certainly aware of my behaviour and my demeanour on the touchline. That’s not to say I don’t want to win with every fibre of my body, I do, but I’ve always had it inside me not to lose my discipline.
“I am very aware that I am going to be looked at by millions of children and you have an expectation to make sure the game is upheld in the right way with the right spirit.”
“I can’t say I will never lose my emotions because you never know what the future holds but I certainly try not to,” he said.
As a Newcastle fan myself, I remember the shame that was brought onto Newcastle football club, the fans and the city when our former manager Alan Pardew headbutted Hull City midfielder David Meyler back in 2014. After the altercation, where Pardew was angered when Meyler shoved past him in an attempt to retrieve the ball to take a throw-in, Pardew was fined £100,000 by the club and £60,000 by the FA.
At the time Newcastle were winning 3-1, going on to win 4-1 after the 90 minutes were up. The FA also handed Pardew a three-game stadium ban along with a touchline ban for a further four games. Although this sticks. In my mind, clearly it did not send a strong enough message to managers and players as 8 years later, the situation of bad manager behaviour has escalated.
BBC Sport presenter and former England international Gary Lineker believes that the problem of referee abuse in the professional game can be resolved by implementing stricter punishments.
“I think you stop that by issuing yellow cards for any form of abuse whatsoever and then make it red straight after.”
“It’ll be carnage for a few weeks, but they’ll learn like they do, like they did with kicking players, you can’t do it anymore. It would work, I’m convinced of that.”
Everton manager and fellow former England legend, Frank Lampard said that managers have a responsibility to behave on the touchline but the Everton boss does not believe there is a direct correlation between actions in the Premier League and grassroots football.
“We have a responsibility, I understand that,” Lampard said. “There’s also a microscope put on managers in the modern day and we’re in highly pressurised jobs. The amount of pressure we come under and the decisions that go against you can throw you.”
I feel this is absolutely no excuse and punishments and professional behaviour needs to be maintained. In no workplace should vile language and aggressive behaviour be tolerated or accepted and so the FA and Premier League need to do more to ensure referees are treated with respect at all levels of football.