The Rational Ref

The truth, as told by Obi-Wan Kenobi

Star Wars parable helps explain how players, managers and fans can sometimes be ledto the dark side

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 8:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 8:51pm

Obi-Wan Kenobi, of Star Wars renown, showed he would have been an out-of-this-world referee master when he calmly and knowingly said: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. What I told you was the truth from a certain point of view."

Although Luke Skywalker felt incredulous, after having initially been told that Darth Vader had killed his father then later discovered they were in fact the same person, he reluctantly accepted wise old Ben Kenobi's viewpoint.

By not lashing out, the young Skywalker is to be commended for controlling his emotions and accepting the unpleasant and subjective truth.

Ronaldo's negative emotions have led him towards the dark side, just as many players, managers and fans are also led
William Lai

In contrast, soccer players, managers and fans who cannot manage their emotions find themselves easily turned to the dark side.

For example, Fifa Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo showed his anger by lashing out at referee Alberto Undiano after his team lost the recent Clasico encounter.

Undiano awarded three penalties during Barcelona's 4-3 win at the Bernabeu - two for the Catalans and one for Real Madrid - and sent off Real captain Sergio Ramos in the second half following his foul on Neymar inside the area.

Of those major decisions, the only incorrect one was the penalty awarded to Real Madrid, which Ronaldo won and converted. Video replays revealed it was a foul that occurred just outside the penalty area.

Therefore, although Ronaldo and Real Madrid benefited from an incorrect refereeing decision, as losers they still complained at what they perceived to be unfair and biased refereeing.

"The referee made a lot of mistakes. We needed to have a referee who was up to the level of the match. I don't want to justify the result, but he was poor," said Ronaldo.

Furthermore, Ronaldo revealed his insecurity by claiming there is an anti-Madrid conspiracy, saying: "There were people who did not want us to win and Barcelona to be left out of the title race. It upsets some when Madrid win. People get envious. The treatment is not the same. People want Barcelona to stay in the title race and that is where they still are."

Ronaldo's negative emotions have led him towards the dark side, just as many players, managers and fans are also led.

In fact, research has shown what match officials have already long known: many players, managers and fans typically have a biased perception of injustice when the referee correctly calls a foul.

This biased perception of injustice, and the culture of complaining about referees, cuts across many sports.

Even reader Nigel Bruce wrote in this paper's opinion page last week about his views of injustice during the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

Bruce made a comment about the unfairness of some teams who have a practice of "penalty kicking for touch" even though this is within the rules. However, he lays the blame on officialdom. He also criticised rugby referees for being overzealous when "lecturing players at each phase of the breakdown".

It could be argued that players who penalty kick into touch are overzealous in playing by the rules, so why only have a go at referees for closely following the rules?

Also, referees - whether in rugby or soccer - who do not communicate with players are criticised for being too aloof and out of touch.

So when they do communicate, critics like Bruce pop up and argue they don't want match officials to talk with players. With cynics like Bruce who never seem satisfied unless they find a way to complain, referees just cannot get a break.

In summary, players, managers and fans - no matter how incredulous the truth may appear to them - must accept the referee's point of view. This is because on the pitch, the referee's point of view is the only "truth" that counts.

A Final Note: The FA's goal decision system, which was introduced at the start of this season, finally proved its worth last weekend during the Aston Villa and Fulham match.

At 1-1, Fulham had a chance to take the lead when Lewis Holtby appeared to have scored before Villa's Matthew Lowton cleared the ball from the goal.

The GDS, swiftly and accurately, showed the whole of the ball did not cross the goal line, with about 1mm still inside the pitch.

Uefa has long opposed goal-line technology and instead continues to champion the use of additional assistant referees stationed nearby on the goal line.

Had the EPL adopted Uefa's futile stance in using extra staff they would have been ineffective as Lowton's body would have blocked the view, thereby ensuring controversy would continue to blight the game.

Furthermore, even if somehow the match officials were able to see the ball through Lowton's body, it is a basic fact that the human eye is just not precise enough to be able to determine whether the whole ball had crossed the line compared with goal-line technology.

How long before Uefa's technophobia crumbles?

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