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The Impossible Demands On Flawed Referees
The Times (U.K.), November 17th, 2008 3PM

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"Premier League managers will never respect referees," writes Simon Barnes. "Respect is an impossible idea and the worthy campaign intended to inspire it is doomed to failure."

He cites the weekend red card shown to Emmerson Boyce of Wigan Athletic for his foul on Newcastle's Shola Ameobi, which replays showed was clearly not a foul, and which probably cost Wigan two points. Potentially, that's the difference between relegation and staying in the Premier League, and could ultimately put the job of Wigan Manager Steve Bruce on the line.

"It was a howler of a decision," said Bruce. Nowadays, with all the money involved in soccer, bad decisions cost livelihoods, somethng that Barnes labels "an absurd situation. How would it be if the fortunes of the organization you work for were decided by a self-important little man in shorts who couldn't really see what was going on? How would it be if your job depended on the fitness and vanity and eyesight of a man with a whistle and a taste for power?"

But that does not make referees ridiculous, just professional soccer. "Certainly, it makes professional football of the billion-quid [pounds] kind beyond-belief absurd," says Barnes. "But then football was never intended to be a billion-quid business. It was supposed to be a bit of fun, with a bit of education and character-building thrown in."

Referees were never intended to be judges "of things that actually matter. The system of making judgments about footballing action is too difficult, too flawed, for that."

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