The remaining weeks of this football season hold very exciting and promising days for the referees and their umbrella body, the Referees Association of Ghana. As the season draws to a close and a new season beckons, both active and retired referees will set themselves on edge.
Being an election year for leadership positions at the national, regional and district levels, the usual campaign and lobbying have started. Those who are anxious to see themselves at the helm of affairs in refereeing politics have all of a sudden become lovers and advocates for the ordinary referee. As a result some referees who misconduct themselves and end up being punished by the organisers of the Premier League are receiving defensive support, most of which are undeserved.
Although these efforts are yielding no good dividends, they appear to persist. All of a sudden there have emerged unscientific criticisms of authentic video clips that are presented during match review excises of errant match officials. Added to this are unwarranted criticisms of the period of sanctions visited on referees who have shown clearly that they have become an embarrassment to the image and standing of the entire membership of the association.
It appears that some referees have restricted and reconstructed the human body so beautifully made by God. In those instances some players’ arms have been artificially extended to include their breast areas and their chests.
There is a lot of harm caused to the game when bad and dishonest referees find refuge and solace in the bosom of aspiring referee leaders. We all need to protect the game of football and the refereeing fraternity and not individual referees who appear to have no respect for good conduct and professionalism. One thing is certain. No bad referee will escape the sanctions reserved for such ones who appear to carve out their own interpretation of parts of the Laws of the Game. The script is written.
If and when some referee leaders (for their own selfish designs) try to taunt and defame others, the members of the disciplinary bodies will remain resolute to carry out their assigned duties and terms of references.
Luckily, the GFA has so far stood by their recommendations, mostly unalloyed. The only missing link appears to be prompt and early implementation of disciplinary decisions. As the season draws to its end, all involved in refereeing supervision and regulation have to entrench their focus.
As the new season beckons, the technical department of the RAG has busied itself in running refresher and physical fitness courses for those referees who will be privileged to be on the GFA’s official league lists. All referees always aim high. At the highest level will be the FIFA list, but the larger numbers are possibilities for the Premier and Division One Leagues.
While many thoughts and targets may well be naturally very personal there should be a wider challenge to all those involved in refereeing and, indeed, football. There is a paucity of official survey data. But my view is that the main area where a large majority of people would want an improvement is the quality of referee decisions, decisions bordering on fairness, firmness and bias. We need qualified referees to produce a better, safer game for everyone.
Over the years, the priority of our referee managers appears to be physical fitness, experience and age. Referees’ decisions are final. Not only that. They are far-reaching and decisive. These decisions manifest themselves in the win, draw or lose conclusions at the end of a particular game.
In a league regime, they culminate in which team wins, gets included among the Top Four or gets relegated into a lower division.
Football is not only a game of passion. It is big, big business apart from the fact that it entertains and serves as a means uniting different segments and sections of communities and nations. There are many different people with varying degrees of backgrounds, beliefs and characters who are involved in the sport. They also have a variety of objectives.
Just recently, a chief executive of a well-known Division One team threatened to quit football altogether, having been affected by two dreadful decisions of a referee. And it took the intervention of other people to convince him that there were ups and downs not only in football but also in life generally. Indeed, this is not an isolated case.
There is this rich gentleman from the Ashanti Region who founded a football club only to disband it after a few years for a similar reason — the bad conduct of a match official. I don’t know what has happened to the stadium that he put up for that purpose. What I know is that, some gainfully employed young men and players were the losers. It was just a simple bad decision that broke his resolve and made a lot of young men unemployed.
Football provides millions and millions of jobs and businesses the worldover. And the contribution of referees to this huge industry cannot be under-estimated. And we should all be proud of this. It should be a top priority for our referee managers and selectors to put on high pedestal the character and value system of our individual referees when they compile the list of referees for the next season.
As a former referee, I know there are both good and bad referees. We have a lot of very good referees. But there are also a few bad, if not rotten, ones. Yes, referees do make mistakes, but mistakes are different from determined bad decisions. The annoying thing is that we all know the bad ones. We mention them in quiet discussions, gossip about them and frown on their ignoble behaviour but, perhaps just like them, lack the good character, value system and fortitude to remove them from among the good ones. The result? We leave them till they finally disgrace themselves and refereeing.
I once pointed out that it is not a pleasant job to discuss issues like this. But my view is that with the opportunity and privilege given to me, it has become a duty and calling. We must be open and clear. It is said that birds of the same feather fly together.
The referee managers and selectors who feel that they have different feathers from the bad match officials have a duty to sort them out from the next referees list. For a long time we appear to have been only plucking the feathers which grow back in no time and indeed into the feathers of other birds.
There is no need for a referee who is physically fit, bubbling with energy and stamina when his decisions are always tainted. He will only misbehave in a physically fit, stamina filled and energy bubbling manner. What is the benefit in selecting a referee who is considered experienced with time only to misapply his so-called experience in cheating one team for the other?
The game of football is made more enjoyable and competitive when officiating is apt and correct. The selection and compilation of a new referee’s league is an opportunity to present the best referees available. We have many good referees in the list, the few bad ones should be excluded from the next list to give all of us a good name. This is possible and desirable. Amen.