Monday, June 26, 2006

Poor umpiring? Blame FIFA first!

Graham Poll with yellow and red card Following from my previous World Cup post... It's not just happening to Australia, but to many matches, even now in the second round of the Cup. Descriptions of the Portugal vs. Netherlands game this morning indicate Russian referee, Valentin Ivanov, lost control of what admittedly appears to have been quite a vicious match.

Nick Place, in today's Crikey sounds unsurprised that yet another referee in the cup is making headlines for poor umpiring and asks "Why doesn't soccer follow the lead of so many other international sports and install an international panel of professional referees to officiate all major events?" It turns out that FIFA simply chooses a bunch of the best-performing referees from existing football leagues a while before the Cup is due to start and trains them specially for the event. This is is stark contrast to other world sports. Place says:
Tennis and cricket are two sports that have a panel of full-time, professional officials touring the world. It means the athletes and officials know each other, enjoy mutual respect and (usually) ensures an un-biased and high-standard level of decision-making...

...The events of these Cup finals have shown that such a system [as the one currently used] is flawed. At the very least, how can you guarantee consistency in refereeing if one ref comes from South America and another from Germany? If the attraction of the World Cup is the coming together of the world's soccer nations, pitting the contrasting styles and on-field philosophies of African teams, South Americans, European formations and so on, the same cannot be said for refereeing...

...Teams need to know that the men with the whistle have a mutual understanding of what is and isn't legal. At the moment, that simply doesn't exist, and unprofessional officials are dragging games down to their level...
Given that Merk and Poll turn out not to be such isolated cases – and that even teams outside Group F are potential victims of bad umpiring – it's time we started complaining about FIFA's approach to officiating. Surely football of the soccer variety is one of the richest if not the richest sport in the world. Why can't FIFA maintain a permanent professional body of soccer officials, hiring them out to the smaller leagues in between World Cups? Not only would it mean the referees would have more consistent umpiring standards, but all the teams of the world would be able to get used to the permanent FIFA referees and be able to better concentrate on playing football – not how to best hide their fouls and handballs from the umpire.

Photograph credit: Oleg Popov
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Blogger Barry Beef said...

I don't agree. The fact is that these referees do know the law, they do know the game and have already been instructed on how to interpret new rules/initiatives. The sad fact is that mistakes do happen, much in the way that all Englanders enjoyed Aleem Dar giving out yet another Aussie batsman lbw after a clear inside edge. The problem with Poll is that he isn't necessarily England's top ref but he is, allegedly, a toad of the first order who will stop at nothing to ingratiate himself with the powers that be.

June 27, 2006 1:11 am  

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