Just what level of respect should a referee expect?

Date: April 28, 2015 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

refereeThis past week I witnessed two very different examples of on-field behaviour towards match officials and the consequences of both were poles apart.

It made me consider where the line should be drawn with respect to how players interact with umpires and referees.

The first incident surrounded Port Adelaide midfielder Andrew Moore who was reported for making contact with an umpire. Moore’s action came while playing for Port’s SANFL-aligned side. Initially the umpire involved, Craig Fleer, did not make a report. Moore was however summoned to front the tribunal after officials viewed video tape of the game

Fleer, when he was alerted to the development, said it was “something totally minor”. The SANFL Tribunal viewed what happened as something far more serious than that. Moore could be clearly seen on the video pushing Fleer in the chest.

It did not appear to be overly forceful contact however Tribunal Commissioner Ian White said it was enough to force the umpire “a step and a half backwards”.

Moore, for his part, pleaded guilty to deliberately contacting the umpire, but in his defence said he was trying to demonstrate to Fleer what had occurred earlier in the game when he had a free kick awarded against him for contact against opponent Heath Caldwell.

After deliberating the Tribunal handed Moore a three-game suspension.

SANFL general manager of football, Adam Kelly said after the verdict “it is imperative all umpires are able to participate in our game in an environment which reflects the respect we have for the important role they play”.

Moore and the Port Adelaide appealed the severity of the ban with Port chief executive, Keith Thomas saying, “It was certainly something that we prefer Andy not to do, clearly. And it’s a message that we have to got to send that you can’t touch umpires.

“But we would simply argue there has to be some consideration given to the impact and the intention of the action.”

The appeal was unsuccessful with Moore’s three-week ban reiterated. I saw the incident in question on a TV news segment whilst watching with my nine-year-old son. He wanted to know why Moore had been given three weeks for what he thought was a very minor thing.

With his junior footy season starting next weekend I gave him a dissertation as to why you must respect the umpire and not argue with him or make contact with him. He understood what I was talking about.

I was then lying in bed on Saturday morning when my son came running into the bedroom to ask me to get up and have a look at something on the television. When I was ensconced in front of the TV he pressed play on the Foxtel IQ remote.

He was watching the ESPN highlights of the European Champions League quarter-final between his beloved Real Madrid and Atlético. What he then preceded to show me was a high boot challenge from Atlético’s winger Arda Turan on Sergio Ramos.

In essence the challenge looked to be fairly innocuous but according to German referee Felix Brych it warranted a yellow card and that is where things got interesting.

Given that Turan had received a yellow card in the 31st minute of the match the second card meant he was on his way to the sideline in the 76th minute with scores locked at 0-0 after the first leg had ended in a scoreless draw. Tensions on the pitch were high.

When Brych retrieved the yellow card from his pocket and started to raise it above his head Atlético captain Gabrielle Fernandez grabbed the referee’s left arm and attempted to drag it down.

All the time several other Atlético players were voicing their disenchantment. Brych took a few backward steps to break away from the enraged Atlético players before raising a red card.

My son and I both debated the legitimacy of the second yellow card with us in agreement that the decision was harsh. The two commentators voicing over the highlights agreed it was a little severe.

One said that to the letter of the laws it probably was a card but in such circumstances the referee should have exercised some common sense. Our lounge room discussion then turned to Gabi’s grabbing of the referee’s arm.

My son wanted to know why one player got a three-game suspension for manhandling an umpire in one football code while in the other no one even made mention of a similar occurrence.

It made me stop and think before responding that I felt the umpire/referee should not be touched by players.

But just what should be seen as acceptable behaviour towards match officials and where should the line should be drawn?

Was Moore rightly penalized?

Was Gabi’s action out of line and deserving of sanction?

They are questions that all of us who follow sport should ponder.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 27 April 2015, soliciting 55 comments