Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Who's the scab in black?

Scotland's football referees are going on strike next Saturday, having endured a torrid season of abuse and accusation (some of it justified). The Scottish FA are planning to import referees from Ireland or Scandinavia.

If so, the man in black deserves everything that's coming to him. Every referee who turns up is a scab. A picket line is a picket line - if you cross it, you've betrayed your comrades. Scotland's football fans, players and managers should examine their consciences when deciding whether to attend this weekend. 

I'm torn on this one. The referees at Stoke City matches have been absolutely appalling this season - we've lost several matches due to refereeing errors. However, I'm a referee at a fairly high level in my sport (fencing) and it's a shockingly stressful job. Each hit is delivered in well under a 10th of a second, and most of the time, both fencers make a hit in the time allowed before the electronic system blocks out the second hit - 350 milliseconds. 

So my job as referee - especially in foil - is to decide who had right of way: who established a clear line of attack and whether a defensive action preceded the other person's response - replaying a sub-350 millisecond action in my head while two pumped-up fencers and their coaches and their friends and families scream that it's their point. Now there are video appeals too: agonising moments in which your decisions are analysed on a big screen while a crowd goes 'ooh' and 'aah' as the super slow motion breaks down the action. 

So yes, refereeing's a horrible, stressful job. Support your local referee. Without them, chaos rules.

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