Wednesday is debate day...

Does rubbish refereeing ruin football? Or does it make it better?

Some rubbish refereeing… Or was it?

The Spoiler is never one to jump on a bandwagon, in fact, we still love Nick Clegg, we don’t think the Kings of Leon have, like, totally sold out and some of our best friends are bankers.

But after weeks and months of pretty poor refereeing, we’ve finally decided it’s time to start having a long hard look at the standard of officiating and what it means for football and stuff…

First, an apology. This would have been up ten minutes earlier (we know you’re probably devastated) but when the big brains at Spoiler HQ were asked what they thought about Robin van Persie’s red card and the standard of refereeing in general, everyone went madder than a black swan-playing ballerina.

There’s been a lot of talk about the decisions that went Arsenal’s way and that the sending off evened things out a bit. But that’s not really the point is it? Two, three, four wrongs don’t make a right.

How is it right that Van Persie gets sent off for having a shot after the whistle has gone, but Wayne Rooney and Jamie Carragher don’t walk for elbowing and gashing?

Confusing, isn’t it?

What’s equally confusing is how much everyone seems to absolutely love debating and arguing over these decisions. It’s a sadomasochistic joy that doesn’t leave bruises following your tw*tting with a table tennis bat by Mistress Morticia. Perfect.

The reluctance of FIFA to give referees any more help in a game that has changed almost beyond recognition in the past few decades seems to imply that they’re quite happy for the injustices to continue. If we know anything about Blatter and Co, then it’s safe to assume that if they thought the popularity of their ‘product’ was being harmed by poor refereeing, they’d change it – clearly it isn’t.

Does the human error element make things better? What should be done about the refereeing situation? Should anything be done?

We’re still arguing at Spoiler Towers, so help us out with a little comment below…

20 responses so far
  • Calvin // March 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Does the human error element make things better? Massively.

    But I have no solutions.

  • Fiel // March 9, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    v Persie didn’t get sent off for kicking the ball away, he got sent off for hitting Dani Alves in the face and then kicking the ball away. As much as I believe the second yellow was extremely harsh he could have been sent off for the first incident and there is a caution available for Busacca whenever he wanted to give it for having illegal equipment (red undershorts) so v. Persie really wasn’t doing his job trying to stay on the pitch.

    Arsenal lost though because it was Bendtner not Chamakh who came on I just don’t understand what Arsene sees in Bendtner. Chamakh would have put that chance away and Arsenal would have snuck through.

    As an Arsenal supporter though I am not terribly unhappy as it looks better for the league now one distraction is out of the way. Arsenal won’t move from European powerhouse to true superpower until we have a some reliable centrebacks.

  • Brian // March 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    As you rightly noted, Arsenal had more than a few decisions go their way earlier (should’ve been a penalty with Messi earlier in the game, for example). A bit harsh on v Persie, but given the way he was acting, if he didn’t get it then, he would’ve gotten it later. At any rate, his contribution of 0 shots was unlikely to climb. I was sad to see Barca win that way, even if it didn’t matter b/c they would’ve won anyway.

    As for the human error, I say let it be. If the refs have to review plays, it will make things absolutely horrible and boring. Ever have a masochistic moment and watch and American football game? If not, just do that once and see how much you enjoy watching the refs review a play. It’s bad enough when players engage in time-wasting tactics.

  • J // March 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Maybe RvP was acting a bit petulant because Abidal grabbed him by the throat–how was that not at least a yellow?

  • Dan // March 9, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Human error makes it better if your a Barcelona fan, but makes it worse if your an Arsenal fan. And those are my words of wisdom.

  • internet pundit // March 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Is it wrong of me to want Dani Alves to break both his ankles?

  • Linda // March 9, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    @J: Yeah, I’m a little amazed that this hasn’t really been brought up. I think this is where the whole “RVP bad attitude” started. Who wouldn’t be shitty after that?
    Personally I like the human element when it’s 50/50. When it’s a freakishly clear-cut situation? Where everyone on all sides are lost in the jaw-dropping injustice of a decision? Well, it really does ruin the game for me, even if a decision like that swings in my teams’ favor. All I’m left with is the question of what the match really would have been like had this horrible injustice not been perpetrated on what had been a perfectly good game. As a neutral I am still aggravated about Wolves’ perfectly good goal against Tottenham being disallowed. And I think Stearman is a twat.
    What really disturbs me is that the refs who continually take a hatchet to fairness are the refs who continually get the jobs. The refs with the highest profiles are the ones who are most likely to make the most dramatic decisions. It’s as if they thirst for the name-recognition and that only comes with controversial decisions.They don’t seem to suffer any consequence other than the publics’ view of them. They still get the big matches and we still wonder why.

  • Adam // March 9, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    It is also very telling that Barca stayed very quiet about poor refereeing after the first leg while immediately following last night’s game, Arsene get’s himself in trouble with UEFA. I respect Arsenal for their philosophy with the ball but Arsene is a whiner.

    Play the game. Sometimes decisions go against you and sometimes they go for you. It is only natural in a game where the refereeing is very subjective. It is frustrating to lose a massive tie like that when there is a controversial refereeing decision, but surely your team has been on the receiving end many times.

    “In the end, the universe tends to unfold as it should”

    The reason that the human element is bad for the game is because it allows for people to complain and place blame for the loss instead of reflecting on other reasons.

    I buy into the thought that Arsenal had historically played very well vs Barca in the final 20 minutes, but it is a lot harder at the Camp Nou.

    PS – Level headed british soccer blogs are rare and fucking awesome

  • AcF // March 9, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Whatever the outcome of the discussion, Blatter and Platini have atleast a point, and if people think football is bad with these guys running it, it would have been MUCH worse if it wasn’t run by “dinosaurs” like them. Football is more than entertainment, which Blatter understands. If it was up to the people who run every other show on this planet we’d have breaks in football matches for advertisements, and effective time so they can play some garbage music every 5 minutes, with animal mascots running around the pitch.

  • James // March 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Human error errs against Barca’s opponents yet again. Play acting, diving, bringing down opponents in the box, holding necks, whistling to stop play and having your 12th man with his own, real whistle…

    Howard Webb makes a couple of errors and they photoshop him in a united shirt, while other referees award matches to Barca year after year and it’s “human error.”

    internet pundit, it’s wrong that you want it to stop at the ankles. Most people wouldn’t mind if he just got Hargreaved out of the game.

  • pwilk // March 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    @AcF well – put, despite corruption there is something to be said for ruling officials who have been around since the old guard and at the very least respect the sanctity of the format.

    aside, dodgy refereeing keeps the human element alive…perhaps why fifa and blatter continue to resist goal line technology.

  • Fiel // March 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    Nice to see other people recognizing the beauty of football is that it plays as a match not as a series of dissectable incidents which cannot be reviewed endlessly while everyone waits for HQ to determine whether the tackle was careless or wreckless.

    As for the Arsene whining comment. Considering he watches English soccer where Phil Dowd considers a clever assault a caution and numerous other referees seem afraid to sanction players for fear of ruining the match (Even Howard Webb who performed a political miracle taking the World Cup final 4 years after Poll did his best to show how unaccustomed English officials are to cautioning appropriately, is guilty of failing to apply appropriate sanctions). It is understandable that he shows some frustration when he suddenly comes up against a referee who is really tight in enforcement . He watches his team take a beating week in week out and manages to keep his self-control he has earned his chance for a little complaining.

    I do need to point out that FIFA’s stance on goal line technology is correct. It will not be used until the technology is both silent and instant reporting to solely the officials. As to how they do their PR there is room for criticism there.

  • R2Dad // March 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Adam, I tend to believe that the universe unfolds into chaos–as do poorly refereed football matches.
    ACF, there is a wide spectrum of intervention that could be used to make the game more just. Your example of American football is a red herring used to discredit the reasonable application of technology to improve match officiating. Since no one is suggesting TV timeouts, instant replay officiating on the field, mascots, music and mincing on the sidelines, your point is illogical. As is your support of Blatter, who is a corrupt criminal who has single-handedly ruined the worlds greatest sporting event.

  • R2Dad // March 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    The achilles heel of all leagues is the lack of refereeing uniformity. We want similar calls for similar fouls, and it’s impossible to get because of human error, official subjectivity (even if it is subconscious), the inability to see everything on the pitch, home vs away influence, etc. The fact is Busacca wanted to assert his authority in a match that he felt was running away from him. So he pulled a card out of his pocket to soothe his ego and ruined the match. Common sense says you don’t get time-wasting in a tight match in the first 65 minutes. Busacca was too eager and didn’t ask himself, “Is this what the match requires, or am I being an over-sensitive douche?” No amount of laws/revisions/rules will stop an arse from reaching for his pocket when all that is required is a verbal warning.

  • Adam // March 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Last night wasn’t chaos. There was a single call that was reprehensible, even though it was correct given the laws of the game. The referee should have displayed some restraint.

    The rest of the game was Arsenal swiping at the air and kicking ankles which resulted in a choppy game. The referee did a good job of letting them play early but lost some control on the game, the red card was probably the result of him trying to clamp down in the 2nd half.

    Wenger is a whiner

  • Venger Degage // March 9, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Venger MUST go. He should have played Chamakh instead of the useless bendtner. Van persie deserved his first card and in my opinion was not mentally fit to play. Venger always makes this sort of mistakes by not trusting his players. Chamakh by the way scored more than 14 goals so far and would have definitely scored against Barca. venger MUST go. From 4 cup chances, down to two now and soon down to zero. Enough is enough.

  • elcynico // March 10, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Barca are the masters of the (footballing) universe. Refs must always give them whatever help they can otherwise some nasty side from England might win and they don’t play football. According to Monsieur Wenger many of them play rugby. Anyone who disagrees will be fined £6,000,000 and banned for 3 yrs from the Champions League. Signed Michel Platini

  • Chris B. // March 10, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Adam has it exactly right; it wasn’t chaos. I thought as I watched the match that Busacca was in control and making excellent decisions in pretty much every case except the sending off. And the sending off was an example of, for me, the hardest type decision for a referee to make–the type that relies 100% on judgment and instantaneous awareness of all aspects of a new and complicated situation, rather than just the rules of the game (I would compare it to the quick-kick by Porto against Arsenal last winter). In the instant after RVP took his shot, the referee had to assess a lot of different questions, all of which were easier to see in retrospect: was crowd noise keeping him from hearing the whistle? Was there enough time between the whistle and the shot for RVP to stop? Would a send-off absolutely kill the second half of the game? That type of assessment is best made by taking a breath and thinking for a second, but during the match, referees, if they are anything like me, get into a mental mode where they are making so many snap decisions (and they usually can’t afford to be any slower) that they might forget to slow down and recognize the one or two situations where more deliberation is called for. It takes a once-in-a-generation refereeing genius like Collina to instantaneously take in that entire situation and answer all the questions correctly, and do so virtually 100% of the time that a new problem comes up. The rest of the referees in the world, even the best, will continue to get it right only 98% of the time, and that won’t be good enough for most of the people watching. Too bad for them.

  • Jp // March 10, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    People say d better side won. This is football. The better side doesn’t always win else Arsenal would won EPL every year. I think uefa had some favour towards Barca to sell the tournament further.

  • Jp // March 10, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Can someone please confirm of the referee (Busacca) ever got a query or sanction from Uefa? Its very unfair to end a teams seasons preparation woth a bad referee decision especially if the ref goes unpunished..

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