A Game in the Gutter

The tagline “a beautiful game” has finally become obsolete. During the past year there has been multiple cases where the on-field language used by those involved in the game has resulted in the game being brought into disrepute.

When was the last time the game wasn’t in disrepute?

The latest in the long line of accusations is that a match official used racially derogatory language towards a footballer. This seemingly can be sorted very quickly, the referee is miced up and three other officials have a live in-ear feed of what he is saying. It is a case of interviewing the other officials and finding the truth.

However, this is undoubtedly, again, going to fall into another us vs. them case. The fact that the microphone feeds of all four officials is not recording is beyond belief. It would allow for much greater accountability to the Referees’ organisation (PGMO) when reviewing matches, and would be able to used as evidence against players who are reprimanded for foul or abusive language, and in this case as evidence of the official’s language.

In rugby union the referee’s mic is broadcasted at the ground, and on television. This has not only reduced the amount of foul language from players but resulted in a greater understanding of the refereeing process. Why this step has not been taken by football is a question many have asked. But association football is a sport which, after a fourth official used a pitchside television to see an incident missed by the referee and then relayed the details to referee, removed the television instead of making this common place. The game? The World Cup Final. The foul? Zidane’s head butt.

Technology will never be embraced by the powers in football. They believe it creates disparity between the professional game and the accessible kick about in the park. The difference lies in the millions of pounds that are associated with one and not the other, not technology. Gone are the days of football being an accessible world for its fans, adding technology will make no difference.

I have two possible remedies. Firstly, I suggest the FA follow the example of rugby union and broadcast, or at least record the officials’ mic transmissions. If FIFA, suggest this is not within the rules, ignore them. Realistically they will never bring sanctions against the Premier League and its global viewing, and if the sanctions are against the national team, it would only remove the chances of another underwhelming performance at an international tournament. Failing that, my second suggestion is to cellotape everyone’s mouth shut.


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