It can be a lonely task to be the man out in the middle – so how much support should referees receive from the football authorities?
Brazil’s new refereeing supremo seems content to hang them out to dry. “After every game,” says Coronel Marcos Marinho, “we are going to put up on the site of the CBF (Brazil’s FA equivalent) videos of controversial moments, we’ll give our analysis, with the official position of the Referees Commission, and say if the decision was correct or not.” This is a radical break with convention.
Refereeing decisions are the target of complaints everywhere. But the flood is especially big in Brazil – in part because of low job security for coaches and the fact that the position of club president is elected, so that playing to the gallery with conspiracy theories about refereeing never goes out of fashion.
Coronel Marinho’s public trial by video runs the risk of legitimising these complaints – though the Coronel himself clearly believes that many of them have some foundation.
“There are referees,” he says, “who have been in the system for ten years and are still making the same mistakes, even with training, orientation and evaluations.”
And so changes will be made to this year’s national championship, which kicks off in May. “We want to reduce the mistakes and have a more consistent criteria,” he says, justifying his option to create an elite squad of officials to take care of first and second division games.
In the case of these top referees, the retirement age has been raised from 45 to 50, with the over-45s having to pass physical examinations in order to continue. The maximum age for third and fourth division referees will be 42, and 40 for lower levels. The obvious aim here is to renew from the bottom up, to clear out older officials who are not seen as top class and bring on the younger generation.
The process of evaluation will also be tightened, with referees to receive a performance analysis 48 hours after the game. “We’ll be looking at technical, tactical and disciplinary aspects, as well as what we call the content of the game, the emotional side, the personality of the ref and how he controls the match.” That is not all. “The referee will also receive a video of edited highlights of the key decisions, with comments on whether he got it right or wrong.”
But it would appear that everyone else may have already seen this on the CBF website. The doubt remains about whether public humiliation is the best way to improve long term results. “You teach assistants and referees always to make the decision on what they see first,” said Marinho last year. “If they start to think about what happened, they will start to make mistakes.” But might the awareness of public judgement make them a little scared to trust their instincts?