“And I don’t care about morals, ‘cos the world’s insane and we’re all to blame anyway”
(Butterfly Collector – The Jam)

So it was another weekend of premiership football and another round of games and blame, with calls for accountability from referees. Pundits backed by some fans in various forums think referees should have to stand up and account for their decisions, particularly the ones tagged ‘dodgy’.

Seems reasonable doesn’t it? Refs aren’t badly paid – in the premiership they’re well paid. They are not paid anywhere near the midpoint between aristocracy and lottery winners that premiership footballers pick up of course but minted nonetheless, by most folk’s standards. So accountability then, splendid idea – for other people, I hope it doesn’t catch on……………

Footballers cheat. That’s quite different from saying all footballers are cheats.

Most people aren’t liars but everyone tells lies, if you see what I mean. Lots of footballers from lots of teams cheat every week. It’s so ingrained, so second nature, I swear half of them don’t even realise they are doing it. From the instinctive raised hand for a 70-30 handball / corner to the full-on choreographed serial fouling at set-pieces right through to the dark arts of diving.

Of course many pundits are ex-players and they instinctively don’t shine the light too harshly. Players don’t dive. They ‘look for it’, they ‘buy the foul’ they ‘go down easily’, they ‘go to ground’ and after all ‘there was contact’.

How often does anyone have the balls to stick a microphone in the face of one of the aforementioned dishonourable acrobats and challenge them to ‘account’ for their behaviour, which may have led to a wrong decision by some poor bastard in the black who people think should ‘account’ for his mistake, even though it was (probably) honestly delivered.

It’s also funny (it isn’t) how the blind eye managers of convenient tumblers are never asked to account for blatant gamesmanship save for the disposable ‘he’s not that sort of lad’ smokescreen when someone kicks someone else into next pre-season.

Fans of every club have lied to themselves about various miscreants as long as they wear the right colours. Oh yes we have and so has everyone else. The moral high ground is always somewhere we can put off visiting, whereas the next three points can never wait.

Some sections of the media / professional punditry are keen on accountability for match officials but less keen on facing the music over press excess or their lazy stereotyping of clubs, area and fans (Newcastle; club, fans and city being a frequent target). Many bloggers and message boards may rightly point this out but might also turn a blind eye to the poisonous nonsense that fills acres of cyberspace.

Am I a referee, a ref’s mate, a relative of one? Hell no! People who are ‘fortunate’ to sit near me will tell you that I often have advice for the officials, if impersonating an excitable chimpanzee with Tourette’s counts as advice. Would I like to ‘account’ for some of the things I’ve said in the heat of battle over the last four decades at SJP, no!

Football is insane and we are all to blame anyway, as Paul Weller nearly sang.

Accountability, yes shine a light by all means just as long as it’s on someone else but not on me or you.

  • Exiled in the Midlands

    Referees are accountable as they only progress to the professional premiership level having progressed from Sunday league via the various strata of non league to the football league and finally the premier league. If they are no good they don’t get there. The people you see really are the best there are.
    Watching football from the Premiership down to the level of Northern League usually as a “neutral” gives me idea of what it’s like to referee a football game.
    It’s hard to an unbelievable extent and why anyone does it is quite beyond me, considering the abuse they put up with from players, management and spectators.
    Premier league football with its constant replays will always have the edge over match officials judging incidents on one viewing in “real time” So how can referees be accountable?
    With the single sentence “I called it as I saw it at that time” the could follow that up with “ There is a shortage of match officials why not sign up if you think you could do better” A full knowledge of the offside law and its current interpretation would be an advantage for anyone considering this option.