There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and mistakes by referees.
We know this.
We hate it, but we grudgingly accept it, the same way we accept the weather, mosquitos and reality TV.
I can remember any number of referee howlers from my own playing days. One particular doozy was a few years ago playing in the Central Coast Over 45s comp. My team just needed a draw to make the semis and with minutes to go it was still 0 – 0. One of their chaps tried to get in behind me (playing right back) and in so doing pushed the ball a good two feet over the goal line. It was so far out that we all just stopped, but the enemy winger kept going, and to our horror we realised the ref was going to let him. A goal was duly scored and as we started protesting bitterly, it was noted that the linesman had his flag in the air.
But wait, the ref ignored the linesman and blew a goal anyway, and what followed was truly bizarre. The linesman stormed off in protest, and at the end of the game we learned he was none other than the President of the Referees’ Association!
Anyway, we lost 1 – 0 and missed the semis (replaced by the team that had beaten us). Was there anything that could be done? Surely the result could be overturned when the mistake was so bad, with impact so unjust and with the most eminent possible witness!
No, nothing could be done, we were told. There’s no changing the referee’s decision, no matter how obviously wrong, so that was the end of the matter – which we accepted with gritted teeth and resumed…I mean started drinking beer.
After all, referees are a critically important part of the game. There wouldn’t be a game without them, so it is only right that FIFA enshrine among their laws that the referee’s decision has to be respected, even when blatantly wrong, and cannot be overturned under any circumstances.
I really want to emphasise that. FIFA say that the referee’s decision can never, never, never be overturned. I mean, if FIFA didn’t even make an exception to the rule when Maradona scored against England in the 1986 World Cup, or Thierry Henry’s outrageous handball got France into the World Cup at the expense of Ireland, costing the Irish FA millions of pounds, then surely no-one else could possibly have the authority to change the ref’s decision, right?
The Central Coast Football Association has the power to overturn referee’s decisions days after full time, and that’s exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago in the Division 1 men’s grand final contested by Umina Eagles and Woongarrah Wildcats.