The couch referees

In the opinion article by João Caiado Guerreiro in the newspaper A Bola: "What if we all took that college exam, in the hardest subject, but every week?".
News 31/07/2023

With two weeks to go until the start of the championship, which will be played on the weekend of 13 August, and just a few days before the Super Cup between SL Benfica and FC Porto, this article is dedicated to the referees. Those gentlemen are presented with allegations such as “incompetent, blind, bought, we play against 12, son of this and son of that” every week.

The referee, the underdog of the football kingdom, has no rest, as his decisions are reviewed by professionals in the media and by citizens on the sofa at home, at work, and in cafés. And even if the refereeing was good, no one is ever 100% happy, as that throw-in was always taken three metres in front. What if the VAR audios were publicised?

I assume that directing a game takes work. It requires specific training and adequate physical preparation, and the duties are many: to accept the appointments for which they are appointed; to attend the matches for which they are assigned; to maintain a conduct (…) of uprightness and truth (…); to appear to testify at enquiries and proceedings (…). All this and more in Article 19 of the Arbitration Rules. But the most difficult one, because although unprotected, they are human, must be: “Not to issue public statements (…) without prior authorisation.” In other words, referees cannot defend themselves against accusations made against them. What if the VAR audios were publicised?

The referees’ decisions are subject to intense scrutiny: they report everything that happened in the game. But note, dear reader, that if in their report they “intentionally alter, misrepresent or falsify acts that occurred in the game or make false statements or information, they will be punished (…) with a suspension of between 6 and 10 seasons”, article 189 of the League’s disciplinary regulations. A very tough rule to fight corruption since a suspension like this is the end of a career. Are they really “bought” every week? I don’t think so, but what if the VAR audios were publicised?

Moreover, referees are assessed by FPF/FIFA observers, who analyse their work in each game and give a final grade. And as for conflicts of interest, there are many, and they are defined in an annexe to the League regulations. The clubs can formally complain by exposing incorrect refereeing (art. 95). It’s as if we all took that college exam, the most complex subject, but every week. And if you get a bad grade, you can even be relegated, losing your place in the elite. Few of us are subjected to that much testing, correct? What if the VAR audios were publicised?

The next time I “complain”, dear reader, I will remember what I have just written because it is not an easy profession. Therefore, the right to the goal goes to all the referees, including the VAR, who will do their best to make this sports season successful. And according to the Arbitration Council, “already with the release of some VAR audios”. Some are not all, but it is a first step.

Article by João Caiado Guerreiro in A Bola newspaper.

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