The Rational Ref

Referees should have a say in player of the year selection

If journalists' votes are counted in awards, then referees deserve just as much input in selection

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 10:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 10:45pm

Eden Hazard and Harry Kane were chosen by their fellow counterparts for the Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards, respectively. But just how credible are rating systems for choosing the best in soccer?

To be voted as the best by one's peers is regarded by those in the field as highly prestigious. Chelsea's John Terry, who won the Professional Footballers' Association Players' honour in 2005, said it was "the ultimate accolade".

Others, like managers Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, pay scant attention to individual honours since to them the beautiful game is all about the team.

"For me, football is collective," said Chelsea manager Mourinho. Arsenal manager Wenger even called for Fifa's Ballon d'Or annual contest to be scrapped. "I'm totally against it. I'm a team lover and a specialist of somebody who loves team work. I would not vote for anybody," he has said.

But there will always be individuals who naturally stand out from the pack. In the ratings game, various systems are used.

The PFA honours involve peer review or rating, which gives the awards a modicum of credibility. Other esteemed awards do not exclusively use relevant voters such as fellow professionals, while some exclude players altogether.

None use referees, who would be credible and neutral voters.

There will always be individuals who natually stand out from the pack

Fifa's Ballon d'Or for instance includes journalists in the voting. Why are votes taken from journalists considered equal to votes from players and coaches?

Also abusing the system is common, with tactical voting taking place.

When non-players vote, it is not simply peer review, but adulation. This is fundamentally what the Football Writers' Association Awards have become, where their best player in the EPL is chosen by a group of about 400 sports journalists in England.

Considering the apparent explosion of former players becoming commentators, perhaps Gary Lineker, Gary Neville and others should start a Punditry Association Awards, which would uphold the original spirit of using relevant peers to vote for the best players.

Furthermore, it would be credible to have an additional award where match officials vote for their Player of the Year and Coach of the Year based on important factors such as sporting behaviour and attitude, respect to others, and upholding the image of the game.

This Referees' Choice accolade would go hand in hand with the PFA awards, in the same way that schools allow students to vote for their favourite peer, while simultaneously having teachers identify the top performing student of the year too.

The Hong Kong Football Assoication's annual awards system has a basic premise in allowing anyone to cast their votes online to choose Hong Kong's best players and coach.

Sensibly, the public cannot vote for Hong Kong's Referee of the Year because in truth non-referees have little idea about how best to rate officials. Like players, referees would only trust the credible opinions of their peers, providing of course there is no bias.

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