These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

THE REFEREE'S A STRIKER

Printed in the Southern League Central Division match v Woodford United on Tuesday 25th January 2011. We drew 3-3 in front of 184 people.

I like a good old fashioned strike, been on a few picket lines and taken part in my fair share of direct action. Asking politely is easily ignored by the rich and powerful while taking to the streets sends out a message. The recent student demo hit the headlines because of the aggro at the end. If it had all gone peacefully, one media editor admitted, it would have got just a few seconds on the news. So the Scottish referee strike was an interesting one. Verbal attacks from players and managers; death threats from fans; and demands for an enquiry and reform of their trade from former Labour Home Secretary, now Celtic chairman, John Reid ratcheted up the pressure. Celtic have been attacking refereeing integrity in Scotland making out that there's an institutional bias against them. A line had been crossed and the refs decided they had had enough and downed whistles. We even had a bit of solidarity with some refs from other countries refusing to take their places.
So are Celtic, flexing their muscles complaining about the injustice of it all, just like the big Premiership clubs where top managers are always ready to whine when things don’t go their way? Like a small, spoilt child we must never forget that the world revolves around them.
Of course the media don’t help with the idiotic 24 hour sports news channels desperate to fill it with something. They would throw their hands up in despair if all they heard was managers saying ‘well the referee is only human, he made some mistakes, but not as many as my players who I thought acted in a disgraceful manner.’ Actually that would make news cos it’s so unusual. Instead we get the football highlights with fancy camera angles and slow motion replays followed by managers complaining about a referee's decision that cost them the game, should have been sent off, was never a foul. Or as former England manager Graham Taylor once said to a linesman, "Tell your mate, he's cost me my job". Our blame culture doesn’t help either. Well how about you lost cos your team was rubbish and you got your tactics wrong?
Why anyone would want to become a referee or linesman is beyond me and for that I take my bobble hat off to them. They get more abuse than estate agents, traffic wardens and bankers (well, maybe not bankers) While some argue they only do the job because they are just frustrated footballers who couldn’t make the grade, how about they just like being involved in football? Referees will make mistakes, and they will get things wrong. And this ain’t helped by players diving, feigning injury and chasing them around the pitch.
In most major sports the authority of the referee now goes largely unquestioned and they have multiple officials and assorted technology to help make the right decision. What they also have in common are natural pauses built into the pattern of the game, so looking at technology or asking another official becomes just another break.
But football is a passionate game and I wouldn’t want to see that diminished by stop-start technology. Yes emotions get out of hand, but maybe its time to dish out longer bans for managers and players that persistently argue. I know when Slough players do it leaves a bad taste in my mouth (or maybe that’s just the disgusting food being served up at football grounds?)
The alternative is that it won’t just be Scottish refs who have had enough and we will soon be contending with more than just the weather to see if our game is going ahead.

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