Referee Abuse... A BIG NO NO!
It seems that no matter how good they are people still manage to find scenarios to disagree with them. No doubt we've all let rip at a referee occasionally, whether it be on the field as a player, on the sidelines as a coach, in the stands or in front of the TV as a supporter.
We all like to think and say we know what the right call was, where they went wrong, how they could have done it differently, or what that slow motion replay actually showed.
We all like to think we know more...but the reality is we probably don't.
I'm as guilty as anyone, don't get me wrong. As a basketball player
I've questioned referees too many times to remember, I've run off the
court shaking my head and muttering or waving my hands on more than one
As a basketball coach I teach my players they should never question a referee...but then when one of them takes a hit and the whistle isn't blown, I sometimes fail and am the first one up out of my seat in the referees face.
As an AFL supporter, I've watched my beloved Crows many times from the stands and on TV and my mum would be the first to say she often has to remind me that the umpire on TV can't actually hear what I'm saying.
At a junior and park level of sport (where we all know every game is a matter of life and death) referees are often young kids giving it a go for a little extra pocket money...yet we never hesitate to abuse...there's something wrong with that picture.
Other times, referees are parents or simply adults willing to grab the whistle and give it a go to help the game actually run...yet we never hesitate to give them `advice'.
The `ugly parent' syndrome has become an epidemic in junior sport, very rarely do you witness a junior sporting match where there isn't someone on the sideline showing their child exactly how not to act.
Sometimes I think that as sports lovers we don't have an understanding of what it takes to be a referee or what it means to be a referee, nor do we even begin to treat them in the way we should.
At an elite level of Touch Football, the referees amaze me. They are a team; there is no doubt about that.
They don't get paid to referee games at our National Touch League, instead they pay to travel and attend.
They referee 3-5 games a day, each time running up to 5 kilometres in a single match. (That's potentially up to 25km a day.) Their fitness is just phenomenal.
They strive to achieve the next badge level, they strive to receive team awards and referee a grand final and it is all an absolute honour for them.
The referees that you see on televised sports are elite. They are just like the players that we idolise, love to watch and occasionally pay exorbitant amounts of cash to.
Referees train like players, they have a huge responsibility like players, they are coached and analysed like players, they are passionate like players and they fight for honour and positions like players.
When players line up for the AFL grand final or the NRL State of Origin and the excitement and the nerves are there, do many people stop to think about the referees of the game?
These referees have been judged the best in their field, that's why they're there and it's a huge achievement and honour...much like the grand finalist sides. The referees know their performance is going to be under the pump, imagine the nerves they're feeling.
Yet despite all of this, in any sport, we never hesitate to abuse referees and it seems that `sport rage' is becoming common terminology for our behaviour.
A while back, Penrith Touch Football Association banned a local player for 15 years after he physically assaulted a referee, hitting him several times during the match.
This same player was then taken to court and sentenced to 12 months weekend detention, with a non-parole period of 9 months.
To make the situation even worse, the same player was suspended 2 1/2 years ago for 8 weeks after he assaulted the same referee.
The Sun-Herald reported the story with the sub-title reading "Clubs praise zero tolerance for sport rage".
And that's what it should be. Zero tolerance. Penrith Touch has done what all Touch Associations Australia-wide and sporting associations in general are heading towards...there are no excuses and there are no reasons...abuse of a referee, either physical, verbal or in any other form, is totally and completely unacceptable.
The referee is an integral part of the game and another person just like us. They will make mistakes, don't ever doubt that...but as players we will miss shots, drop passes, let our defensive player get by us and make countless other mistakes...yet no one attacks us to the
extent we attack referees.
Whether it be a tennis player arguing a line call that may come down to mere millimetres, an AFL player mouthing off after giving away a free kick, a soccer player trying desperately to convince the referee he really was tripped and didn't take a dive, or the constant criticism of
every State of Origin referee that comes along...we constantly abuse referees.
The reality is that it shouldn't happen. I think everyone knows that...we just aren't mature enough or disciplined enough to hold back.
Zero tolerance needs to be the stance of every sport official, of every association, of every club. It needs to come from our directors and managers, filter through to our coaches and parents and down to our children.
We all need to take a long hard look at ourselves, listen to our words and begin to take our treatment of referees and umpires seriously.
We need to treat them with respect and maturity, not only so that we receive the same in return but also so that our kids see what we're doing...only then will we begin to be able to change the culture of Australian sport permanently.
Referees Abuse... A BIG NO NO!!
Story written By Rachel Grant (2006)
Edited by Beau Newell