Football fans and their incessant love for a dodgy ref

Ben Mountain

Football is a game for debate. For disagreement. For sharing a view, irrespective of its accuracy. We, as fans, just love a good natter about our very own specialism in the world of football. Especially about the aspects we shouldn’t even have to consider.

Ronaldo or Messi? Is 4-4-2 outdated? How many birds has John Terry really shacked up with? We’ll while away the hours discussing every tiny element of the beautiful game if we could, hell, it’s our job at CLICKON; so we’re definitely guilty of this. But, often most importantly, football fans have one shared interest that’s up for debate regardless of who they support. Was the referee right with that one, lads?

“Of course he weren’t, the fella’s as clueless as a nun reading a lad mag, mate.”

“Leave it out, John. He got it spot on.”

“Oo actually according to FIFA’s laws of the game in section 31 of the 1987 official revision, it’s clearly stated that… bla bla bla.”

Everyone can relate to that type of conversation down the local at some point, surely. We simply love to analyse football and, in particular, how well the officials perform. But at the same time, we all love to complain when they possibly get it wrong. The debate turns into:

“Here, what’s that wazzock doing at this level, anyway? He should be extradited then burnt after a public humiliation for some of those calls. How can they keep getting it wrong?”

“Hold up, it’s very difficult for a ref to get it spot on every time. We need TV judges.”

“TV judges are not permitted in English football in accordance with the third legislative rule on officiating… bla bla bla.”

Ultimately, yes, greater consistency and possibly some further support for officials should be introduced in England. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love a good mistake from a ref or feel like we have to impulsively tweet our disagreements with Mark Clattenburg and his pals. As soon as something goes even remotely wrong, or right for that matter, fans at their respective stadiums are up in arms – projecting their new found hatred for X in the black as vocally as possible. Or X in the green, yellow and grey nowadays. We emotionally tell this aforementioned X how they’re unfit to referee. In fact, at the last game I went to, someone called “what’s the point, ref? You’re making everything not fun.” He was a fully grown man, by the way. His seven-year-old son had to offer him some sweeties and a colouring-in book so that he’d settle down.

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The point is this: referees are admittedly painfully frustrating and often inflammatory people. They make mistakes all too often and in a manner that’s borderline smug and makes them appear to be general jobsworths. The FA stand by them when they shouldn’t and yet offer very little in the way of genuine support for their cause whilst turning them into celebrities in their own right. Which is no doubt quite unhelpful. Although, looking at Mr Clattenburg, they don’t mind it all that much. Anyway, we enjoy having a dodgy ref every now and then despite our whinging.

For the purpose of post-match conversation, where often many of us are lost technically, we can simply turn to the ref’s performance. Fans, journalists, pundits and managers alike, all do it. And secretly we revel in it. Why would ‘You Are the Ref’ be so popular otherwise?

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We’re drawn to irregularity and nuances in this sport; no one would watch it if every season and every game were the same. It’s the very reason we love the beach ball incidents, the paper airplanes landing on the pitch, the stupid pundits, the haircuts, some fat bloke eating a pie, Zlatan’s pre-composed quotes and, obviously, the decisions a referee makes. We go crazy for out of the ordinary moments in football. Take this gem from Rod Stewart, for example….

Every little triviality that occurs (cat on pitch, shirt rips) is heralded as hilarious and comment-worthy. It’s no different when something that should be unwavering and constant, perhaps not even noticeable, such as a referee, changes. We collectively ‘oo’ and ‘ah’ before drawing up a tedious argument on why the decision was/wasn’t wrong.

One such event happened last Saturday. Crystal Palace’s Jeffrey Schlupp picked up an injury. He was marginally off the pitch and then inched onto it in order to gain the referee’s attention. At this point, the physio had to wait for the game to be stopped in order to offer help. The ball left play for a throw. The referee, in this case, played on. Naturally, Everton – Palace’s opposition – scored straight after. Was the referee right in playing on, given that Schlupp had initially been off the pitch, or should he have stopped the game once the ball left play anyway? Palace did have a substitute waiting, after all. Anyway, debate sparked up furiously over this with Alan ‘Potty-Mouth’ Shearer giving his delicate opinion via Twitter.

At the end of the day, those who discussed it loved giving their piece on what should have happened. It’s the same for every pro-Tottenham decision that Mike Dean gives and every weird lip-lick that Mark Clattenburg does. We find it fascinating and entertaining. Asides from when our team is the victim, we love dodgy referees. So, come on, let’s stop getting so irate about it. You know you love it really.

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