Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Referees' Strike: The exploding bubble
December 12th, 2010 9:42PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Daily

MOST READ
TAGS:  england, referees, scotland

MOST COMMENTED

[REF WATCH] The Scottish soccer referees strike in November exploded like a bubble in a simmering sea of discontent among officials that has rumbled for over a century.

They had the courage to say "No, we've had enough. We are not offering our services until effective measures are in place to counter the constant abuse we face on and off the field of play." Bravo!

Administrators of soccer know about abuse of their volunteer match officials but have never found the most effective means to control it. Consequently, the insults, intimidation, and violence against referees continues to mount until a bubble bursts to reveal the problem yet again.

A personal experience explains my admiration for the Scottish referees action. In the early days of televised matches in England I was embroiled in a similar situation with historic consequences.

Saturday 14 October 1967, TV cameras focused on a Football League Second Division match, Millwall vs. Aston Villa, at The Den, New Cross, in South East London.

Millwall lost 2-1 and Norman Burtenshaw, one of the finest of English referees, was kicked to the ground by an angry mob. The fans blamed him for not awarding a penalty to the ir team.

For months the Football League match officials association had reported a growing trend of abuse and violence against members and had urged The Football Association (FA) and the League (FL) to take positive action before a fatal incident occurred. Burtenshaw was so nearly the first victim.

As President of the officials I obtained an urgent meeting with the FL to insist on raising fences to keep fans from invading soccer pitches. We were assured of immediate action at Millwall but the club’s bad reputation for crowd problems (three ground closures and several warnings) seemed not to influence a joint FA-FL commission, which found the club guilty but imposed a powder-puff fine of £1,000 ($1,500) - and another warning. No fences.

We were furious. Our members voted to strike until Millwall provided adequate protectiion. My public announcement to the FA and FL, provoked a storm of media support for our cause.

All reports were fair but included an ominous facet which touched my personal life. My wife, Jessie, had received threatening phone calls. One voice said, “If your old man doesn’t lay off Millwall I’m going to disfigure your pretty face.” The same person phoned again repeating the threat to put a razor to her face. We were not too upset but the menace stayed in our minds long after.

We obtained a firm commitment to meet our demand with action and withdrew our strike threat. Within days Millwall started work on constructing fencing on top of field-side wall.

The whole affair revealed an ingrained contempt of the role of match officials and a callous indifference for their welfare. The sad truth is that the essential role of the referee in soccer has never been clearly understood and accepted for what it is – to ensure that the game is played fairly and safely, for the pleasure of the players and all who enjoy it as a spectacle.

The authorities were forced to address a longstanding problem. They did so grudgingly, with the minimum of engagement . But, for several years after the Millwall affair extra policing and physical barriers, throughout the FL, provided a security screen adequate enough to deter all but the most aggressive fans.

And then came the hooligans …

(Stanley Lover is a longtime international referee instructor and author of the recently updated book "Official Soccer Rules Illustrated." He officiated over 1,000 soccer matches at all levels, including serving as an assistant referee in the Football League for 11 years, plus international and European Cup games.)



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
MLS Moves: 'Flaco' returns to Sounders    
Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez is back at Seattle for his second stint, signing on Thursday, a day ...
Video Pick: Pulisic scores against Man City    
Borussia Dortmund's 17-year-old American Christian Pulisic scored the stoppage-time equalizer in a 1-1 friendly tie with ...
MLS Moves: Castillo swept off his feet in Turkey    
FC Dallas star Fabian Castillo arrived in Turkey ahead of his anticipated transfer from MLS to ...
What They're Saying: David Luiz    
"It's important to be an example, especially for the kids. I work every day with this ...
MLS All-Star Game: Wondo ready for challenge    
All-Star Games are supposed to be wide-open, entertaining affairs, and if so, are tough tests for ...
U.S. women are off to Brazil -- opener next Wednesday    
The U.S. women's national team was off to Brazil Wednesday night to prepare for its quest ...
MLS Homegrowns lose to Mexico's U-20s    
In an appetizer to the MLS all-stars' game against Arsenal, a squad of MLS U-23 Homegrown ...
U.S. Abroad: Five Americans start in Tijuana Copa MX loss    
Tijuana started five Americans in its 4-0 loss to second division Lobos BUAP in Mexico's midweek ...
MLS Moves: Jones jumps ranks at Philadelphia    
Derrick Jones, the first player to sign with the Bethlehem Steel FC, became the first player ...
MLS All-Star Game: Soaking up the experience    
A guy like Sacha Kljestan, an 11-year pro and veteran of the UEFA Champions League with ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives