Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A Matter Of Respect In The Premier League – The Simple, But Really Obvious Solution

The New Voice Of Football column at FootballFancast.com

Well last week I brought you the unorthodox, but genius idea of Ref-Cam, which there will be an update on in a few days after my minions have finished their painstaking research into the technical side of the matter. The subject in question this week regarding the refereeing of our beautiful game is the one of respect and how simple it would be to bring it back, without really having to do that much.

At the start of this season the Premier League thought it would change attitudes of the modern footballer towards referees by simply going around the different clubs in the Premiership and asking them to be ‘more polite’ to the man in the middle in the form of the ‘Respect Campaign’, while also making a video showing what would happen without the man in the middle to officiate proceedings.

This campaign originated from a grass roots survey in 2007, which identified the abuse and lack of respect towards referees at the top-level as a cause of recruitment and retention problems at grass roots for referees. In addition to helping the recruitment issue and that of holding on to referees it was also hoped that it would filter down to improve coaching and player development along with participation in youth football and the safeguarding of children from abuse, while playing football. These were the key points the ‘Respect Campaign’ was introduced to tackle.

So has there been any noticeable change in the Premier League this season?

Of course not, players are still swearing and abusing refs, they are still crowding around the referee when they feel he has made a bad decision. In fact not a lot has changed at all. Because while it is all very well to ask them nicely there will only be change when real pressure is put on them to stop abusing the referee and action not only taken against the player, but also the club and the powers that run the game.

So how can real pressure be put on them, when a fine is hardly going to have a modern Premiership footballer, having to eat beans on toast?

Well you see the answer is staring the FA, Premier League, UEFA and FIFA right in the face. In fact the referees are already wearing the equipment that could stop this lack of respect almost immediately. It’s the microphone that the refs are already wearing to communicate or not as the case may seem with their assistants on each touchline. Why don’t they just turn them on so everyone can hear what is being said? Exactly what they do in rugby, where there is almost total respect of the ref and absolutely zero abuse or swearing.

If they turned them on do you think the television companies that spend fortunes for the rights to televise games live would put up with these overpaid footballers swearing live on TV every five minutes? Absolutely no chance, they would have every budding Mary Whitehouse on the phone complaining and calling for football to be banned.

The TV companies would then put huge pressure on the FA and Premier League to stop players effing and blinding immediately or face losing huge chunks of revenue if it continues, because they simply would not be allowed to air it on TV. So even the dimmest of professional footballers would be able to work out that the threat of less TV money or no football on TV is going to make him considerably poorer if he cant perform the simple task of buttoning it.

There might be a couple of weeks where there is a slight time delay, while they bleep all the swearing out, but surely even a modern day footballer can learn to stop abusing and swearing at the ref. Especially if it is going to be heard by the young fans that idolise them and have posters of them on their bedroom walls. For suddenly the parents wont want their children having footballers as role models.

Now the modern day footballer may argue that they didn’t come into the game to be a role model, but I would say tough luck you are and that’s that. After all they are all getting paid handsomely for a job that most people would give their right arm to do unless they wanted to be a goalkeeper of course.

So Lord Triesman, Michel Platini, Sepp Blatter and anyone else that is really interested in properly addressing the points the ‘Respect Campaign’ was launched for. Turn on the referees mic’s and just sit back while the respect is brought back for the man in the middle. Yes they might have a bit of a bumpy ride from the TV companies while it’s brought in, but I’m sure they could handle that for the good of the game. After all that’s why they have these jobs in the first place.

For if they think by simply asking them nicely to stop being abusive has worked? Well it might be time to move on and find a job more suited to their intelligence level. For if they cant grasp this simple solution then they have no right to be running the game we the fans all love.

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