Its a tricky one because whilst it feels a bit daft being prejudiced towards anyone and everyone in a certain profession, there’s a degree of self-selection with something like football refereeing.
I mean, as a job, it simply has to attract a very small strata of the population that are officious, enjoy power for power’s sake, don’t give a hoot what people think of them and are confident in enforcing their own decisions regardless of majority opinion. Not the most attractive qualities in general but I’m afraid that’s literally what you need to have to be a referee.
The biggest thing that gets me about referees is inconsistency, and the larger issue of refs applying their own ‘fair’ interpretation rather than impartially applying the rules of the game. Howard Webb failing to send anyone off in the first half of the World Cup Final in 2010 being a great example. In theory, a referee shouldn’t really have a ‘decision’ to make, his job should simply to be a ‘spotter’; seeing whether or not a law of the game has been transgressed or not and applying the letter of the law, but far too many refs seem to see themselves as sort of ‘judges’ rather than simply refs.
Biggest example ever that will forever stick in my head.
Saints 3-1 Manchester City in our first season, Feb 2013.
It was in the first half. We were 2-0 up and attacking the Northam end. Jay Rod has the ball in the top left-hand corner of the penalty area, knocks it past Yaya Toure and runs the other side. Toure is attempting to shepherd the ball out play whilst Rodriguez is trying to get past him and get his left foot to the ball to pull it back across the face of goal.
Then, with the ball sliding out of play, clearly untouched and undiverted in its path since Rodriguez’s touch, Toure shoulder-barges/shirt-tugs Rodriguez and brings him down. The crowd bay for a penalty. City players and fans look sheepish. Toure has clearly committed what would be a foul anywhere else on the pitch yet in the penalty area you often don’t see them given.
So, is a penalty really fair? After all, Rodriguez was running towards the byeline, away from goal and on his weaker foot, ought the attacking team be given a reward as generous as a penalty for that? But, if it isn’t a foul, it simply must be a goal kick. Ought the defending team be let off the hook completely unscathed for something that would be a foul anywhere else on the pitch?
Those were the thoughts that clearly went through the refs mind as he paused, took a good 3 seconds or so looking at the incident, and made his decision. Was it foul and a penalty? Was it a fair shoulder-charge and therefore a goal-kick? Could you even make the case that somehow Rodriguez had actually fouled Toure and give the free-kick the other way?
The ref gave a corner.
The one thing, that every single person in the stadium knew that it could not possibly have been, was a corner.