Thursday, 15 September 2016

"Are you blind?" A referee responds

Game 14, 2016-17

There was a player in last night's third round City Cup tie who had a question for me. "Are you blind?" he wanted to know. A goal had just been scored by the opposition, and from his position 50 yards away in the waning daylight, the home forward maintained that it had been offside. And yet, I was allowing the goal to stand. Was there perhaps a problem with my vision?

Glasses for the referee:
available here
It's a reasonable question, right? If you're playing football and you've got a referee there, one of their core competencies (this is a concept I learned while working at John Birt's BBC in the 1990s) should be the ability to use their eyes as a decision-making aid. I considered my answer, and then summoned my personal secretary from the touchline. I dictated the following letter, which was soon enough delivered by my butler on a silver tray to the home number 10:

"Dear Home Team Forward,

Thank you so much for your query concerning my eyesight. Your compassion does you great credit as a human being. Without such touching fraternal concern, the football community would doubtless fall apart at the seams.

Fortunately, I am able to allay your fears that I am optically damaged. Let us recall that incident in the first half, for example, when you received the ball in your opponent's half. I clearly remember seeing you at least five yards offside. And I can, with total clarity, recall the image of you running over towards me in a state of uncontrolled rage at my decision to blow for an indirect free-kick. Using both
my fingers and my fine eyes, I then pulled a yellow card from my pocket, held it up directly to your face, and recorded the whole incident in my little note book.

Let us now jump forward in time to the second half of tonight's game, and the fourth goal scored by the away team. You will recall that their number 5 followed up on a shot your keeper could only parry and put the ball into the net. I saw that. Then I saw you run from your position inside the opposition half, still fuming about another (sadly correct) offside call against you, push through your protesting team-mates and, just a few centimetres from my face, pose the question that has prompted this response.

You were maybe worried too about my hearing, because you screamed the question very loudly. Once I'd explained my decision to your more rational team-mates (the number 5 had not been offside when the original shot was taken), they backed off and left you to it. You were still very passionate about the perceived injustice. Therefore, using my fully functional ocular capacities, I withdrew my yellow card from my pocket and held it up to your face for a second time. According to the laws of the game, this meant a red card too, and the end of your sporting activity for the night.

You left the field still cursing at me, and using your own eyes to stare at me in a manner you perhaps thought would make me scared. I saw that, because I stared back at you. You don't scare me and I don't give a fuck about you or your anger issues.

Yours sincerely, The Referee."

Final score: 2-6.

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