Fan Zone: Referees are not the enemy – they deserve more respect from football fans

Josh Murphy and Angus Gunn continue the protest with referee Peter Bankes after a penalty was not aw

Josh Murphy and Angus Gunn continue the protest with referee Peter Bankes after a penalty was not awarded during City's defeat to Derby at Carrow Road. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Saturday, October 28, almost directly below where I sit in the Barclay, Derby goalkeeper Scott Carson makes THAT challenge on Josh Murphy.

Around me, my fellow Norwich City supporters went ballistic. Waving their arms around, shouting at the top of their lungs – many of them were more animated than I have ever seen them before. They were absolutely convinced it was a penalty. I remained seated, feeling like the only one who believed Carson had made a perfect tackle.

On seeing the replay of it later, I’m less certain of my stance but still not convinced that it should have been a spot-kick. Referee Peter Bankes had to make his decision instantly and I think it was fair enough to give the benefit of the doubt to the goalkeeper.

The Barclay disagreed, though, and for the rest of the game Bankes was public enemy number one inside Carrow Road.

Football crowds can be an odd bunch. There is an exasperated groan whenever a free-kick is awarded against their team, even when it is quite obviously a foul. Surely they can’t all genuinely believe that their side never does anything wrong? I like to think they are simply frustrated that they have lost possession, but I do wonder.

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I reckon barely a game goes by where fans on social media do not claim that the referee was poor or that he was biased against their team. Sometimes both sets of fans from the same game will say this. The referee can’t be biased against both of you! Surely this means he has done a fairly good job.

I find it strange that in football we are quite willing to forgive a player for a misplaced pass or wayward shot, yet the officials are always expected to be perfect. They are human beings. They make mistakes. Perhaps we should be a little bit more forgiving to the man in the middle.

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Sometimes, the referee does have a bad day. A day where he gets a big decision quite obviously wrong. Take Simon Hooper, for instance, who disallowed Cameron Jerome’s brilliant overhead-kick goal against Crystal Palace on the opening day two years ago.

That was so obviously the wrong decision that Hooper was rightly dropped the following week. Hooper would have made the decision believing it to be the right interpretation of the laws of the game, however, and not because he wanted to wind up 25,000 Norwich fans.

Some say that referees should be made to face the media after a game to explain some of their more contentious decisions. What’s the point? People have usually made up their minds about an incident on a football pitch immediately, and the referee is unlikely to get sympathy for giving his take on it.

There is one thing about referees that the average fan does not like to admit. Every referee knows more about the game than we do. They have spent years getting to where they are, studied the laws extremely closely. What football fan can say they have done that?

In the cup game at Arsenal, a lot of fans said Mohamed Elneny should have been sent off for his foul on Nelson Oliveira because he was the ‘last man’. In fact, no such rule exists. And the referee knew that.

The point I am making, at the end of all this, is that we should give referees a bit more leeway. They have an extremely difficult job on their hands – a lot of information to take it and act upon in a very short space of time, without the benefit of a succession of TV replays.

They are really not the enemy. They are usually pretty fair. And they are just doing their best. Next time, just stop to think for a moment before you give the man in the middle a load of abuse.

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