Sunday morning, beautiful Sydney day, and I’m down at the local park reffing my son’s trial match.
It’s stinking hot, beach weather really, but we’re all here because it’s an excuse to play or watch some football. I’m only too happy to take the whistle, because they are kids, and there’s nothing better than seeing kids have a go and, in the most part, enjoy themselves playing sport.
Late in the second half, one kid rips a shot on goal. The goal is one of those temporary ones that you can fold away into something you can carry, like a chair to take camping. There are no posts, just net. The ball sent careering from this kid’s foot hits the net and rebounds out. Did it go in, or over and rebound back out? I dunno. I ask the kids, they don’t know. It all happened that quickly. I give the goal for no other reason than it was a damn good attempt – the kids don’t complain.
They sprint back to halfway to try and do it again.
But immediately, I think of 12 hours beforehand, and Strebre Delovski’s split second decision to award a penalty for Sydney FC against Melbourne Victory.It was no penalty. We needed a replay to confirm that. It was off the ball, but in the background of Delovski’s line of sight. He thought he saw something that wasn’t there.
The assistant is the real culprit. He was in a much better place to see Seb Ryall merely tripped accidently on Gui Finkler’s feet, as the Victory midfielder turned to chase the ball. It was no-one’s fault Ryall fell – and it wasn’t a dive. Ryall, too, was looking at the ball.
Again, a replay told us this. Didn’t see it in real-time, just replay.
Victory fans and the club are screaming for justice. “No more Delovski! He’s screwed us too many times (three bad calls in less than 12 months – they have a point)”.
They won’t think so at the moment, but the real issue is what is done long term.
The way forward is totally up to the FFA. It requires strong leadership, and by strong I don’t mean knee-jerk reactions.
The two are confused so much by politicians and sporting bodies alike on a weekly basis.
The AFL and NRL have full-time refs, but they find it hard due to the rules changing on a yearly basis. Interpretation takes a while to settle on. Mercifully, rule changes are few and far between in football.
What’s required here is clarity. Will full-time refs alleviate such howlers? If Strebre Delovski sat at home or in the office all week pouring over videos and stats, would his line of sight have been able to take in what actually happened between Ryall and Finkler?
The English Premier League has full-time officials, and howlers still happen there. That said, they are fewer and farther between, and the assistants over there are much more precise and definitive. Case in point, three weeks ago when a Hull player volleyballed it into Newcastle’s net. The referee gave it, until he saw his assistant, who had a chat, and changed his mind. Superb officialdom.
Is the answer a fourth official, like in the FFA Cup, who patrols the by-line?
Personally, I’d say all of the above.
For the finals, get in the fourth official, but only ask for his opinion – get the referee to talk to him if unsure, not the other way around. Get the assistants to be more proactive.
And yes, find the money from the current or next TV rights deal, however much it is, to fund five full-time teams of refs, and get them in the State Leagues during the A-League off season to stay sharp.
They can’t see everything.
They can’t ask the players to see what happened.
Help them help themselves.