Support, respect for referees

Everyone seems to have bad stories about sideline comments and refereeing.

There is the seventh former who gave up the netball she loved because the senior pupils had to referee games and she found criticism stinging.

There is the woman, no shrinking violet, who found the hockey sideline comments too much.

There is the able young referee who gave up because he was susceptible to critical remarks.

The issue is across most sports in most places, for most levels and age groups and for both men and women. It is age-old.

While at the extremes referees have been manhandled by players or spectators, the day-to-day mutterings, asides and comments also cause serious damage.

In the South, three premier club football coaches were red-carded for referee abuse on the same day the weekend before last.

This was not supporters or parents but premier coaches who should know a lot better and who must lead by example.

Their passion must be under control. They must know such behaviour harms the game they love.

Southern Football chief executive Dougal McGowan has so far declined to name the clubs or give details about the incidents.

But he has said the coaches face multi-week bans and possibly fines.

He has also said he hopes clubs do not pay any fines on coaches’ behalf so that the message to the coaches strikes home.

Meanwhile, Southern Football has been going through the regulations to decide on the penalties.

The problem with the lack of details is that a shadow hangs over all the premier coaches.

In the absence of information, the three could be any among them.

Mr McGowan, correctly, has said everyone needs to think about the standards and the values of organisations, clubs and teams: "It’s about trying to create good people and good communities."

Football is marred by poor pinnacle role modelling.

Every weekend players from the leagues of England, Spain, France and Germany surround referees when a debatable call goes against them.

Managers on the sideline struggle not to remonstrate, and in post-match interviews insinuate around what they are allowed to say.

A nadir was reached after the Europa League final last May when referee Anthony Taylor was confronted by Roma boss Jose Mourinho.

Mr Taylor had chairs thrown at him at the stadium and he and his family were shouted at by angry fans at Budapest Airport. Mourinho was banned for four weeks.

It could well be that the treatment of referees has become worse for local football than rugby.

However, the picture has been ugly at rugby’s top level.

The aftermath of last year’s World Cup in France featured appalling fan reactions.

Referee Wayne Barnes and his family received "vile" social media abuse.

Mr Barnes, in his autobiography, described abuse that led him to consider quitting on several occasions.

New Zealand rugby referee Ben O’Keeffe received a flood of abuse after the Crusaders’ victory over the Chiefs in last year’s Super Rugby Pacific final.

He and his officials were loudly booed at the post-match trophy presentation.

Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan, too, was guilty of referee criticism, albeit indirectly.

It seems players can make mistakes but referees, and for that matter video referees, cannot.

If the best of the best inevitably gets things wrong how much harder is it for the person helping at the weekend?

As it is, judgements on football or basketball fouls or rugby ruck infringements are often so tricky anyway.

It is little wonder just about every sport has a refereeing crisis.

Sports rely on referees and must respect them at all levels — from the English Premier League to the games played by small children.

Forbearance, support and encouragement are required from everyone — the players, supporters, parents and coaches.

Abuse from mild criticism to much worse must not be tolerated. Any abuse should be called out whatever the circumstances.

It must not be tolerated both because it is wrong and because it dissuades anyone from becoming or remaining a referee.