World Football: Are We Being Too Harsh on Referees or Do They Deserve Criticism?

Aditya M SCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2011

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 08:  Robin van Persie of Arsenal reacts as referee Massimo Busacca shows his a red card during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Barcelona and Arsenal on March 8, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Massimo Busacca is now an extremely hated figure by all Arsenal fans (including me), players and even the manager. His mistake? He sent off Robin van Persie and, in the process, nullified any hope of Arsenal going through to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

There is no doubt that his decision was a poor one, and from the moment he made that decision, there was only one winner. His decision was perfect by the letter of the law, but it lacked common sense. There was only a one-second gap between the whistle and the shot.

The referee (especially such an experienced one) should have used his logic and common sense and then made the decision. At that time, the game was very evenly poised, and Arsenal was leading on aggregate. But the decision robbed the match of its genuineness and ultimately cost Arsenal the match.

Following the match, all Arsenal fans were infuriated at the decision. Even I was initially disgusted at the decision and felt that the referee had cost Arsenal the match—or at the very least, denied Arsenal the opportunity to have a fair chance of victory.

Following this result, Busacca has come under severe stick for this decision. Some have even called for him to be banned and investigated.

Now there is no doubt that the referee had a poor game, and he had made a few poor decisions that affected both teams.

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But the question I have is this: are we being too harsh on referees?

Several Arsenal and Barcelona fans have launched scathing attacks on the referee. Yes, he deserves criticism, but are we going one step too far?

In recent weeks, the debate about the quality of refereeing has intensified with referees like Mark Clattenburg, Martin Atkinson and Busacca at the centre of criticism.

In the case of Clattenburg, the criticism went so far that he has decided to take a one-month hiatus from the game.

Sometimes I feel we tend to take referees for granted. We fail to understand that referees are, after all, also human. How often do we hear praise for a referee after he has put in a good showing?


We criticize them, but sadly we never praise them when they deserve it. Consequently, an inaccurate picture is painted in the end. We talk about referees only when they have a bad game and never when they put in a solid showing.

Nowadays, it is perfectly alright for a player to have a bad streak or have a bad game. But the moment a referee has a bad game, we descend upon him like a pack of wolves.

The likes of Messi and Ronaldo have a bad game and all we say is that we finally know they are human. Then why can’t the same logic apply the referees? When it is perfectly alright for a player to have an off night without having everyone dissecting his performance, shouldn't we give the referee some breathing space as well?

These referees have the eyes of thousands of fans going over them and analyzing each of their decisions. They face tremendous pressure to deliver in each match, and there is hardly any respite.

All of us are guilty of going overboard with our criticism of top-notch referees like Busacca and Clattenburg, referees who have the respect of the entire refereeing community. In the case of Clattenburg, he was so severely criticized that he even contemplated quitting refereeing rather than his one-month break.

It’s also understandable that the fans and the club are angry with the decision. These decisions often affect the course of their season and in Arsenal’s case resulted in its elimination from the UEFA Champions League.

It’s true that a certain amount of criticism is always good at times. However, we have to draw a line between constructive criticism and extreme criticism.

We have to understand that at the end of the day, this criticism is not going to help your team in any way. All it does is increase the pressure on the referee and increase the chances of future mistakes.

If we all realize that all these referees are human, why don’t we realize that it is natural to make mistakes? Even the best of them do so.

All passionate fans, including me, are guilty of going overboard with our criticism.

But it is not just the fans who are guilty. Even top managers like Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson are guilty of launching scathing attacks on these referees.

The referees in England have recently submitted a five-point plan to improve the quality of refereeing. Some of these plans, if put into effect, can have an immediate effect in improving the quality of refereeing.

One of the plans included using video technology. This has been widely talked about, yet the genius of Sepp Blatter and FIFA continue to remain short sighted. Hence, we still don’t have video technology in the world’s most popular sport.

Referees will make mistakes and we can criticize them, but when it goes beyond control, something we are all guilty of then it becomes plain unfair.

I think it’s time for change and in this case a change in the mindset of the fans to accept that referees are bound to make mistakes.

Do check out my blog: Sportsbuzz

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