Who would be a ref? It’s a tough job, but someone has got to do it!
Having been forced into refereeing several matches at the recent Canary Wharf Squash Classic & Dulwich Open it gave me a fresh chance to look at the job from the other side of the glass.
You have three fast moving objects (Ball, Player A and Player B) in a confined space and have to make, what is ultimately, a subjective decision that probably one of the parties (not the ball!) will disagree with! The brain has to process all the information provided and come up with the ‘fair’ result, which in some cases is not what the black & white ‘Rules of Squash’ would suggest is the correct course of action.
It also gave me the opportunity to observe the interaction between the players and the referee, whether it be a fellow player or qualified official in the hot seat, and this is often not help by either party, particularly in the latter case. I don’t know if is written down anywhere, but I am pretty sure the referee is there to ensure that the rallies, and ultimately the match, reach the correct conclusion and that the best referees are the ones that you don’t notice.
Given the aforementioned three fast moving objects there are going to be many situations when the outcome will fall within that grey area, ie. it could be one of two or even, on the odd occasion, three decisions. At that point it is impossible to explain the decision, as that very same decision the next day would elicit a different decision by the same referee and require a different response! So by explaining it the referee is setting him or herself up to be shot down.
It is not just the explanation area that sometime needs a bit of fine tuning, but the general handling of the players.
There is no doubt it is a fine line between being too relaxed and too officious but it’s the referees that manage to find that balance that are often the ones that the players are happy to see in the chair, and it can often have little to do with their decision making! Poor handling of the players simply heightens both players’ scrutiny of the decisions causing frustration & confrontation even when they are correct!
Given the ‘grey’ area that exists in dealing with these three fast moving objects, let’s say that due to human error referees (whether they be officials or players) make 10% bad calls. If the players only ask the individual to make 10 decisions in the match, there will be only 1 bad call. If, however, the players force that same individual into making 100 decisions then they will, using the same hypothesis, make 10 bad calls. Now those are match changing stats from an individual who would have had no impact on the match!
There is no simple answer to this conundrum, that much is clear from the millions that are thrown at football with the same decision discussions on Match of the Day week in week out – but what is clear is that both parties can help improve things.