I have tried to write a blog on refereeing on numerous occasions but am yet to finish one so hopefully this attempt will end more successfully.
Refereeing in sport is one of the most difficult jobs known to man. Bold statement but when you look at sports nowadays, football, cricket, rugby, tennis, squash etc the players and balls are moving so fast that referees are bound to make mistakes. Couple that with the improvements in technology where tv audiences can see replays from all angles in super slow motion, and often a decision can be proved incorrect. What we forget is that 95% of the time when a correct decision is made, no one blinks an eyelid.
Agreeing to disagree…
In squash two players can sit next to each other and disagree on a decision. Two referees can sit next to each other and disagree with a decision. Two spectators can sit next to each other and disagree with a decision.
Squash is down to interpretation and people see the action in different ways. Players in all sports rarely make it easy on the referees as they always play right on the edge of the rules, seeing what they can get away with if it will mean an advantage is gained. In football it happens far too much, in squash it happens, and for some players far too much in my opinion.
In squash the referees are not professional and this is part of the problem we are having.
That is one side of the argument, one where I am sticking up for the refs (that might surprise some people!). It is a difficult job with not many incentives.
Some people forget that we squash players do not make a lot of money and this is our full time job. So when a bad refereeing decision is made at a crucial point of the match, people have to understand the consequences for us as people trying to pay a mortgage/rent, support a family, have enough money to follow your dream and stay on the tour.
Sometimes we get upset and rightly so. Bear that in mind when you heap criticism on us for moaning, shouting, letting the emotions run. I’m not saying it’s right and some players handle it better than others, but just bear it in mind.
Improving communication Players/Refs
The relationship between referees and players is not ‘toxic’ as someone suggested. Far from it, we speak to each other like normal human beings and even have a laugh and a joke away from the court on occasion!
One thing that definitely needs improving if we are to take our place in the Olympic Games one day is the communication between players and referees in working together to produce a better understanding of where the other is coming from. The referees needs to be more receptive to this as I believe there are only a handful of referees competent enough to officiate at the top level.
The players need to want to be part of this as well, and unfortunately I don’t think enough of the players seem to care abut the future of the game. There are always the same few who are actively involved in trying to make improvements to our game at the professional level.
Here is a little criticism of our referees. We often have different referees at the big tournaments and therefore the consistency of decisions goes out the window. We often have a case of ‘the blind leading the blind’. Not really at the top level but lower down where referees, who in my opinion aren’t good enough to ref, are teaching other referees or assessing them! This results in a downward spiral.
With the three referee system, the central referee often hides behind his/her ‘team decision’ explanation and doesn’t assert some control on the game ( if there is blocking, do something about it!).
I feel the video review has been mostly positive but I think the video referee needs to either not know the decision that’s been made so not have been influenced already. Or sometimes the thing that frustrates me is when they don’t watch from all the available angles and make too rushed a decision.
Another simple thing that annoys the hell out of me is when a player calls his or her ball down and the referee can’t even have the courtesy to thank the player. This leads to me on to the referee’s demeanour and attitude, it needs to be non-confrontational and relaxed. The players get worked up enough, so all situations that can be diffused, need to be, and not the other way around.
If we don’t get this part of the game more consistent, if the governing bodies don’t put more resources into funding such a massive part of our beautiful game, then when we come to the Olympic Games it won’t be the spectacle that it should be as such a lot is at stake. We need to try and eradicate the blocking and fishing, with stricter, better refereeing this can be done over time but it won’t be easy, especially with the way some kids are taught these days.
Some players have suggested going back to just one referee who controls the whole match, i’m definitely not against this idea.
There is lots to discuss on this matter and I’m sure lots of people will have an opinion. In fact I hope lots of people will have an opinion as it shows people care.
Please disagree with me, agree if you really have to but most of all let’s all work together to try and improve the refereeing in all parts of our game from top to bottom.