So Arsène Wenger has been hit with yet another Uefa ban. His latest punishment follows Arsenal’s last 16 Champions League exit at the hands of AC Milan, when the Frenchman took the referee to task over his performance at the final whistle. The European governing body has slapped a three-match touchline ban on the Arsenal boss and thrown in a €40,000 fine for good measure. This charge represents Wenger’s third touchline ban in the space of a year and he could be forgiven for thinking Uefa has it in for him.
Of course they don’t. The coaches, players and fans need to understand that referees are not out to get them and that decisions are awarded on whatever the officials see. Or don’t see. But it seems to be getting to the point where whatever you say, even if you’re praising the ref (there goes a flying pig) you’re going to be punished for it later, particularly in Europe. It’s pretty ridiculous, especially as clubs are obliged to talk to the media. Are they supposed to go out there and feed the press a pack of lies or tell it how they think it is? If the managers need to learn that officials do not have it in for them, then these adjudicators need to grow up and realise that in their line of work they might attract the odd piece of criticism now and then. These guys are hardly Mother Teresa.
The issue could be improved, if not resolved, if referees were mic’d up, like in rugby. That way, the television audience gets to hear the reasons behind the decisions. Of course, this will open everybody’s eyes to how pally and on first name terms the refs are with certain players, while Sky Sports would also be obliged to issue a disclaimer on all the foul and abusive language on their shows! But if you can hit the red button for an eight-match choice, surely it wouldn’t be rocket science to introduce a ref mic on/off option in this day and age? Or perhaps they could test out a revolutionary tactic and actually dish out some cards every time the players utter obscenities in the ref’s direction. At least then Andy Carroll could use all the red cards as an excuse for his lack of goals. And if the managers are being given media commitments, why not ask the officials to come out and explain themselves once in a while? After all, they are being paid. It’s not like their volunteers and reffing out of the goodness of their hearts.
Of course it’s difficult to defend those who argue with the ref. It’s not as if you’re going to persuade them to change their minds and you’re only going to talk yourself into trouble. And you can’t condone some of the treatment the officials are subjected to up and down the football grounds of the world. But is it so much to expect a response to the question ‘why did you award that pen ref?’?
They could always go down the Arsène Wenger route: ‘I didn’t see it.’