It's not often I look over wistfully at the Rugby fields at my university, but a few weeks back, that's exactly what I was doing.
The referee was having fun. The rugby players stood up, were silent when spoken to and didn't argue, even if the referee happened to be wrong. Which didn't, to be fair, happen often.
Myself? I was refereeing two University hall football teams, and it was as close to a bloodbath as is humanly possible without spilling any blood. Team A and Team B we'll call them.
I managed to send off four players for the most ridiculous things. The first one was a blinder: the striker of Team A jumped for the ball, and he elbowed the opposition goalkeeper in the face.
I know this because I was looking right at it, and the goalkeeper of team B - who was knocked out, by the way - was lying flat on his back, while the striker was screaming abuse at him. It was along the lines of "get up, you ****ing cheat" and luckily, staying calm, I blew the whistle, waved on the medics (who promptly brought out the stretcher) and gave him a straight red card.
Immediately I was surrounded by his team, protesting vehemently and agressively, with much swearing, and - a push from the defender.
I did not back off, I blew my whistle, and gave the defender a straight red. Suddenly the team members quietened. I was not kidding about. I then booked the other four who had been protesting, and gave a free kick to the opposition side, who had stayed very quiet, unlike their supporters who were screaming with delight at the two red cards shown within a minute.
I called over the captain of team A, who had stood back and allowed his team to surround me - and made no attempt to stop them. I told him, first thing, that if they continued to act in this manner, I would be forced, by the rules of the game, to give more yellows - possibly second yellows. He did not listen, he continued to argue, and his retort was "you don't know what you're doing, you *******". At which point I booked him for dissent, and continued the match.
That was 35 minutes into the match. 69 minutes in, I sent off sent the captain of Team A, for a two footed lunge on the replacement goalkeeper of the opposition. At 82 minutes in, the opposition goalkeeper was then sent off for - and this flabbergasted me - taking out the new stiker of team A when the ball was nowhere near either of them. They squared up, I separated them - and got a nice shiner for my troubles! So the goalkeeper of team B went off, and team A had their free kick outside the box.
I blew the whistle, having given 5 minutes of added time - we actually played 114 minutes technically, with stoppages, but to be honest I was absolutely relieved to get off that pitch.
It was the worst match I've ever been involved in as a referee, and I can't believe I kept my cool for so long. Four red cards (three to one team) and twelve yellows for some blatant fouls and - dare I say it - acts of gamesmanship.
After handing in my report, the University took Team A to task for failing to control their players, and docked them 5 points. They were unable to qualify for the knockout rounds, and they had no one but themselves to blame.
It was with a heavy heart that I witnessed the Chelsea match last week, and watched Mike Riley called Ashley Cole back three times for his booking. On the second one I would have sent Cole off. There is no place in the game for referees who are timid and cowardly, and that is what I am putting it down to, moreso than Ashley Cole's disgraceful behaviour.
We, referees, get it wrong sometimes. That we freely admit. However, during the game our word should be law, as it is in Rugby - otherwise the game goes unregulated. The players must have the respect for the decisions of the referee - right or wrong - and play on regardless of whether they agree or not with the decisions, and WITHOUT argument.
I have seen so many incidents this season that make my profession a joke - Clattenburg, in the Liverpool-Everton match, failing to send off Kuyt for a two footed lunge in midair, for example, or John Terry grabbing Luis Boa Morte's neck - and escaping punishment both on and off the pitch - and when like me, you see it week in, week out, you wonder why you are bothering in the first place.
The F.A and the Referee's Association must back their referees, and they MUST introduce retrospective punishment in order to curtail the behaviour that teams like Chelsea think they can get away with - and at the moment, seemingly do. No team, no football player, should be above the law - and I am afraid it does seem to be like this at present. How else can we explain the complete lack of effort on the PL's and F.A's case with regards to the Cole incident?
I am, more and more, growing tired of seeing able bodied football players going to ground, making professional fouls, going in with the intent to injure, or showing complete disrespect for the game and its officiating body.
The great game is in great danger of going too far - it is in danger of being fixed.
Because when a team like Chelsea can act how they like, when they like, and get away with it, the game is no longer a game, but a farce.