Ask someone what they consider to be the most hated profession and they will inevitably rattle off politician, journalist, ticket warden. But there is one answer so glaringly obvious that nobody ever mentions.
The referee. Ah yes, the guy you love to loathe and loathe to love in equal and epic proportions. In a highly pressurised environment, he lives and dies by each and every decision, whether the action taken is awarded rightfully or wrongfully.
It’s a difficult situation. The man in the middle is in control, he dictates the game and can decide whether your Saturday is celebrated at the local boozer, or commiserated at the local boozer.
Is the role of the referee more important than the PM? I don’t ever recall seeing Tony Blair during his incumbency stood in the middle of the Commons with all the MP’s chanting in unison that he is a w**ker when it was revealed there was no Weapons of Mass Destruction. If this was done for every single bad decision made in parliament, like it is done on the football pitch, politicians would think twice about their actions. Perhaps this kind of tirade could be suggested as a future initiative at this Wednesday’s PMQ’s?
Okay, so maybe that last paragraph was a bit tongue in cheek and I can’t compare the role of a referee to that of the PM, but who would seriously want to be a referee?
Well, there are those who just aren’t good enough to pull on the shirt of their local pub team on a Sunday, so the referee seems the closest thing to becoming a player. Then there are those who are just bitter about life and use their whistle as an extension of their manhood, usually to provoke hatred and a torrent of abuse from the striker, the manager, the fans, the man walking his dog… you get the picture.
Some may even suggest that they do it for the love of the game. Well, I don’t remember how awarding Ronaldo a penalty for the faintest of touches on his well-manicured foot, followed by numerous somersaults, petulant arm waving and groans from the Stretford End, has ever benefited football. If they loved the game, they would keep well and truly out of the decision making and watch some other poor sap make the same mistakes they would have, only they will be watching from the comfort of their armchair.
With the stakes high and the difference between winning and losing greater than ever, referees are now constantly in the spotlight. While the best referees are often anonymous throughout a game, in the heat of the moment, for those 90 minutes, the man in the middle could be the most hated or revered man in your life.
There is an old adage that says that you couldn’t play the game without the referee… trust me, somedays you could.