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Referees - why AVB must do battle on the killing fields


Dorset

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Apologies, one and all, for this opening paragraph reference to chess yet again, but please bear with me as it does have relevance, despite it being buried deep in the metaphorical mire. Imagine the scene, compare it with Sunday’s game if you will … you’ve played your best, you’ve lost, and now, as is the habitual want of every chess player, your triumphant opponent asks the inevitable question -’Would you like to go over it?’ - and, much like Match Day Chat for a Shed Ender after a galling defeat, you simply cannot say no. So the pieces are flurried around in analysis of the game and you know from the outset that there are no excuses to be had, but you have to try to demonstrate you were winning, up until that silly mistake, and you could have chosen this, that or the other way to save the game. Except the subterfuge never works because your opponent has seen everything and each time you put forward a vindicating variation he shoots it down with a series of responding moves bashed out on the board before delivering a final crushing phrase that brooks no argument…’that kills’.

Of course, in football there is no equivalent to this cameo of a confessional, nor will there ever be when we talk about a team game where major decisions are made by individuals detached from the play itself and answerable to none, other than their isolated selves. In chess, detachment and decision-making are impossible bedfellows. In football they are deemed necessary, for too many cooks spoiling a broth (known in refereeing circles as ‘judgement calls’) creates a situation where there is a dubious need for just one independent stirrer, albeit assisted by flagmen, at all times. In short, there is hardly ever a decision made by a referee, or by assistants on his behalf, that cannot be disputed, yet the guy is empowered and always right, due in no small measure to that very detachment. More importantly, even though superfluous in chess, except in the guise of an arbiter who rules on matters of fact, the referee in football has the authority to dabble in on-the-spot analysis ’that kills’ to his heart’s content, much to the general frustration of those directly involved.

By way of verification of this situation, in the game against QPR individual errors made by David Luiz, Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba were assessed by Chris Foy to be penalty or red card offences and the aftermath analysis confirmed the official to be, according to Sky and the BBC, right on all counts. The BBC also provided statistics to show that there were a total of 17 fouls committed by both teams, with 7 yellows and 2 red cards issued to Chelsea players and 2 yellows to QPR. A multitude of bizarre one-sided sinning, with the Bosingwa red card dismissal being a killer blow if ever there was one, but it is the amalgam of these strange facts, figures and outcomes that has incensed AVB, so much so that he now appears to be on a personal crusade to underscore the wrongs of referees in three specific games this season. All away from home and officiated by Mike Halsey, Phil Dowd and Chris Foy, the inference is not one of bias, but incompetence shown when under the influence of crowd pressure.

Mark Halsey is in the spotlight after denying us a penalty against Stoke for a blatant trip on Lamps in the crucial final phase of the match, a factor that turned my perception of the incident from game-changing into game-killing, as precious little time was left in the match to breathe further life into it. Incidentally, Halsey is no fan of Frank’s (he has booked him more times in the Premiership than any other Chelsea player. Bearing that in mind, it must have come as something of a surprise to Frank that he wasn’t carded for simulation on this occasion - although, then again, perhaps not, as Halsey had booked him earlier and he would have had to send him off in extremely embarrassing personal circumstances had he shown the courage of that particular conviction. How typical it was, therefore, of Halsey to avoid any confrontation by shaking his head vehemently and waving his arms in fussy supplication to move the game forward. Also, for what it’s worth and for those who might wish to get their teeth into the statistical anorak, in his Premier league career to date, Halsey has seen fit to send off three Chelsea players whilst never showing a red card to a Manchester United player.

Phil Dowd’s involvement in AVB’s complaints is more vicarious, in as much as it was one of his assistants who blundered twice in quick succession on offside decisions to leave us a couple of goals adrift against ManU in that euphemistic ‘early doors’ first quarter. Game-killing? I would say so and I would add that since Dowd and his team’s little sabbatical following this game he has hardly covered himself in glory. Currently we hear that Aston Villa are to appeal against Chris Herd’s red card in their 2-1 defeat by West Brom because there is simply no sign of the stamp on Jonas Olsson, confirmed as the reason for his dismissal in Dowd’s report. I’ll wager Villa felt that was just as much of a game-killing incident as I did at Old Trafford and it will be interesting to see, should the card be rescinded on appeal, if there is any subsequent linkage to AVB’s criticism of this referee and he whether he ends up taking another spell on the sidelines.

Of course, throughout all this the very people who highlight or suppress criticism of officialdom with such agenda-driven selectivity remain perched high on their moral ground. Already Sky have inflamed the situation with moronic coverage, typified by their 'Chelsea found themselves down to nine men at half-time after both Jose Bosingwa and Didier Drogba were dismissed. The R's showed great character in the second half in keeping the Blues scoreless ' comment, which only served to confirm how numerically, as well as intellectually, challenged many sports journalists are when it comes to honest reporting. Nor will there be the usual currying of favourable comparison with United, after their gutless capitulation against City left Ferguson’s referral to the sending-off sounding more like a sheepish bleat than impassioned call to arms.

By stark comparison, the Boas must remain true to his own beliefs and if that should mean singling out the unpalatable truths from preconceived Media dogma, well, I for one don’t think he will shirk his responsibility. Tell it like it is - that we have had an inordinate number of game-killing decisions going against us so far this season - because it’s time something was said and, even though nothing will be done about it, better this than a return to shoulder-shrugging Ancelotti acquiescence.

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I feel that AVB compains in a more measured almost reasonable way, he seems very thoughtful in what he says, I liked the way he referred to Foy as Chris, in his post match interview on Sunday, he seemed disappointed in the ref, rather than angry....

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Great read Dorset,you have a magical & involving way with words that's for sure,I wish I'd had an English teacher like you when I was at school,(he was rather busy popping out for a smoke & trying to pull the art teacher),if I had,maybe my grammer/spelling wouldn't be so sh*t!.

Thing is though,HOW can we fix the (sub) standard of todays match officials?,weren't they supposed to improve when they went full time?.

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Great read as usual Dorset, but I would also argue the players and managers within the game should also have a good hard look at themselves for the state of officiating in the game. Refs take to the field in every single game knowing pretty much every player on the pitch will attempt to con, cheat and pull the wool over his eyes at every opportunity. Its now an almost impossible task for them to know what was a foul and what wasnt. Frankly I`m very close to calling it a day with football because of the state of the game.

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Great read as usual Dorset, but I would also argue the players and managers within the game should also have a good hard look at themselves for the state of officiating in the game. Refs take to the field in every single game knowing pretty much every player on the pitch will attempt to con, cheat and pull the wool over his eyes at every opportunity. Its now an almost impossible task for them to know what was a foul and what wasnt. Frankly I`m very close to calling it a day with football because of the state of the game.

You make an excellent point dkw,couldn't agree more.

Ref's ability aside,when did it become the norm & acceptible for players to dive/cheat so much?.

Personally,even if it the situation were to happen to a CFC player in a Champions League final,where a dive would win a pen, I hope for all that's good in the game, that the player would keep on his feet.

I'd rather win fair & well played, than not win at all.

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Great read as usual Dorset, but I would also argue the players and managers within the game should also have a good hard look at themselves for the state of officiating in the game. Refs take to the field in every single game knowing pretty much every player on the pitch will attempt to con, cheat and pull the wool over his eyes at every opportunity. Its now an almost impossible task for them to know what was a foul and what wasnt. Frankly I`m very close to calling it a day with football because of the state of the game.

I feel the exact same way. At the moment my interest in PL football is minute. I will not watch another QPR game this season unless they are playing a top 4 side away from home (i.e thrashing).

I would much rather watch the Lower Leagues where referees are not as corrupt and gamesmanship is less frequent.

Sunday was not about incompetence like the other two games, it was outright bias.

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I've see some shocking dives in old games, and tackles that would get people arrested nowadays...the problem isn't with Football its the way its been turned into an industry, over analysed (us lot for instance going over every bad decision on the internet)and discussed endlessly on Sky etc...

We are all responsible for the state of the game, to some degree...But I'll tell you something last Sunday's game awakened my enjoyment of Football much more than a routine win against any other, so called smaller team...The naked hatred QPHa feel for us is highly motivating for me, as a fan, even if deep down, I still don't really care what happens to them, knowing that they care so much is amusing...

Getting back to refs I would love a statto to compile a comprehensive list of decisions over the past 10 years so that we could either accept that everyone is treated the same, or prove that what we have suspected all along (especially in Europe) is in fact true...

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