Action Against Dissent – About Time Too


If they didn’t know already, spectators at the Reading /Huddersfield game will now be aware that referees in the Premier and Football Leagues have been told to get tough with dissent from players. And about time too.

For years players at the top level of the game have got away with harassing and showing their disapproval of referees’ decisions, but all Football League managers have been warned of the new policy. The Law itself has always been there and is quite explicit. ‘A player is cautioned and shown a yellow card if he shows dissent by word or action’.

The problem is that when players at the top levels openly dissent without action by referees, this leads players in lower leagues to copy them, thinking not only that it’s acceptable but a normal part of the game. One player locally a couple of seasons ago when taken to task by the referee for his behaviour after a decision went against him said, ‘If you can’t stand the comments, you shouldn’t be doing the job‘.

It was as if one quality for referees was not to mind being abused. Only last season referees on the Thames Valley League withdrew their services for one game in protest against the continual abuse by players. How many referees have given up the game because of player’s constant carping is anyone’s guess.

I have toured various referees’ societies with a training session against what I call the cancer of dissent. Players will sometimes be genuinely upset when a foul is given against them or perhaps not given against an opponent. In my opinion, this can fall into three categories;
An appeal,
Or a difference of opinion,
Or dissent – which is when players challenge the referee’s authority.

Dissent is often shown by players charging at the referee, waving their hands or arms at him, or actions like kicking the ball away. The first two may be settled by a word but the last, warrants a caution.

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