Monday, 16 October 2006

The worst refs in Europe?

It is not within the stated remit of this site to comment on matters not related in some way to Real Madrid, but an article in today's As by its editor, Alfredo Relaño, on Spanish refereeing standards, caught my attention and I think warrants some discussion.

Referees in Spain are generally not well regarded. Even tax inspectors think themselves a rung or two above them on the ladder of respect. This is probably true in most leagues around the World, as referees and their linesmen (or whatever they are called these days) bear the brunt of the blame from fans and media alike for any mistakes they make. These are further emphasised by television replays from multiple camera angles, plus the benefit of hindsight when you don't have to make a split-second decision.

It is not just human error that is blamed, however. It is common in Spain for fans, the media, managers, club presidents and pretty much everyone else to claim a refereeing decision was influenced in some way or other by a referee's like or dislike for a particular team or player. Thus, referees get a pretty hard time of it almost constantly, and it is in their interests to remain above it all, and to conduct their business with dignity and transparency.

Which brings us back to Alfredo Relaño's opinion article. In it he describes a murky world of patronage and nepotism, where some (allegedly poor) referees get 'promoted' to officiate in the top division by virtue of who they know rather than on their performance on the pitch. He claims that the system is fundamentally flawed as those in charge of assessing the performance of referees do so knowing in advance what the answers will be, all aided and abetted by the president of the Technical Committee on Referees, Victoriano Sánchez Arminio (a former 'man in black' himself). Relaño takes some of the blame off referees by laying into 'cheating' players who try to persuade the officials to see things their way.

Bad sportsmanship and bad referees: a match made in Hell.

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