Words speak louder than actions

Recently the lines of communication between referees and players and coaches have once again been under the spotlight. The route to resolving these issues really isn’t that difficult…

I try very hard not to criticise referees, fully aware that their job is the toughest on the pitch.

Recently though I found myself – an impartial viewer in the press seats – getting progressively frustrated, almost angry, at the ineptitude of one official.

Kenji Ogiya had an absolute nightmare in charge of the Machida Zelvia v. FC Gifu clash in Round 40 of J2 – a vital match in the battle to avoid relegation to the JFL.

Mr. Ogiya displayed none of the necessary composure for such a key game, and even though they were in no way merited he managed to dish out nine yellow cards – two of which combined to see Zelvia’s Kai Miki sent off.

Ossie Ardiles’ side did still manage to hold onto their 1-0 lead but the Machida head coach was not happy after the match.

“Today’s referee was bad,” the Argentine opined bluntly. “With regards to the yellow cards, it wasn’t a game that needed that many. We are not that kind of team; it wasn’t that kind of game. If there is a foul then ok but he gave yellow cards out far too easily.”

Indeed, the former Tottenham Hotspur player was so incensed at full-time that he was moved to angrily confront the man in black as he left the pitch. I asked him what he said.

“I said that he gave too many yellow cards,” he replied. “If it was Liverpool v. Man Utd how many would it be? There’d be no players left!

“If,” and he placed great emphasis on this word, “we deserved that many yellow cards then the J.League would be concerned and I’d really like them to take a look at the game.”

While I have chosen to highlight this situation, however, it is not my intention to single Mr. Ogiya or Japanese referees in general out for criticism. Referees the world over are increasingly under the microscope.

Later that same evening, for example – and fittingly, after Ardiles’ comparison – Chelsea and Manchester United went head-to-head at Stamford Bridge, with the away side coming out on top after Mark Clattenburg saw fit to send off Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic – correctly – and Fernando Torres – incorrectly.

Again the man in charge had suffered a rush of blood of the head and unfortunately – as seems to be the norm now after any Premier League game involving Chelsea – the episode did not stop at a couple of rash decisions, with Clattenburg becoming the subject of an official inquiry after claims he racially abused a Chelsea player.

At the time of writing the legitimacy of these accusations is still unknown, but what is certain is that the relationship between officials and players and coaches is at an all time low.

FC Tokyo head coach Ranko Popovic believes that greater co-operation off the pitch is the key to healing these issues.

“If there were more chances to have meetings to discuss things then I don’t think these kinds of problems would occur,” he told me recently when speaking about his sending off earlier this season against Vegalta Sendai.

“I know that I also have to change many things about the way I behave, but I get excited very easily and I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.

“This is how [coaches] live. If I make a mistake the referee can continue to work. If the referee makes a mistake then there is a chance I might lose my job.

“Because of that difference I would like to receive some explanation. This is something we have to think about. We must have more communication.”

That certainly seems the best way to approach the issue, and both Ogiya and Clattenburg’s poor displays can be attributed in part to the poor levels of communication between officials and the participants.

Ogiya’s schoolmasterly approach and Clattenburg’s efforts to assist English football’s bizarre witch-hunt against divers did nothing but break up the flow of the game and rile the players.

The only way the barrier between players, coaches and officials can be broken down is if both sides give a little ground. Meetings to air grievances would be the perfect place to start, and may just lead to more respect in both directions.

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November 2012

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