With penalty decisions, number of yellow and red cards distributed and the on-going debate on diving, referees have one of the toughest jobs in the game. From calling an offside decision to playing advantage, every outcome in modern day football seems to come from the whistle. But just how many mistakes can influence a game?
Just this week, there have been more referring errors than ever before this season and what is more, pundits and fans are seeing the wrong decisions being made time and time again. Mikel Arteta’s 84th minute goal sealed the three points for Arsenal against a spirited QPR side but the Spanish midfielder was very much offside when he headed against the bar before tapping in from close range.
Javier Hernandez was another culprit at Stamford Bridge when he easily finished from a couple of yards whilst being quite clearly offside. To the referee and linesman, the game is being played live and at such an intense speed, it’s not overly harsh to forgive them for missing it. However when goal-line technology is just around the corner, are their jobs at stake?
Referees have slip-ups, that is a given. In fact, Mark Clattenburg was having a bit of a nightmare in the Chelsea v Manchester United game as he gave Fernando Torres a second yellow card for diving. Replays showed there looked to be contact with Red Devils defender Jonny Evans and Torres looked to have a reason to fall down after colliding with Evans’ leg.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was furious on the touchline and believed Clattenburg’s decision-making was poor. “It is a shame because it was a good game of football with two good teams and the officials ruined it. Fernando put the ball between Jonny Evans's legs and he was kicked on the shin and went down. Whatever way you want to see it, that is our foul and a yellow card for their player, not ours.”
Over at Merseyside, there was much controversy over what looked like a legitimate Luis Suarez winner for Liverpool in stoppage time. After putting the ball into the back of the net, the linesman raised his flag as if to indicate offside but the matter of fact was Suarez had been onside all along. With the final whistle going moments later, Everton had survived what should have been a defeat.
Simply by making these little mistakes, not only has the referee caused injustice to the team, manager and fans, he has also deprived them of valuable points.
Had Arteta’s goal been correctly ruled out, QPR could have gained a massive point that would have lifted them from the bottom of the table. Chelsea would have remained top but with a significant four-point advantage over Manchester United, had Hernandez’s effort been cancelled. Liverpool would have enjoyed a derby victory over Everton if Suarez’s goal correctly stood.
‘Things even themselves out over the course of a season,’ is a reference from Sir Alex Ferguson who claims decisions may go their way one game but will go against them in another. QPR, Chelsea and Liverpool fans may hope so because as it stands, the referees have cost them dearly. The question remains however – Can referees continue to get away with this or will their mistakes be more costly than just three points?
Will the title be decided by a dodgy penalty call or a red card from a dive? Will a relegation fight be over when the referee awards a goal even though it was offside? As much as fans adore watching football, the referees become the make or break of that entertainment. How much more can they take?