The way out of a critical situation was borrowed from rugby
The crazy heat in the March match of the 1/4 finals of the FA Cup between Manchester United and Fulham (3: 1) resulted in two removals of the London team's players. If Willian left the field without any objections, then his teammate Alexander Mitrovic, outraged by the red card of his friend, attacked the referee so much that he almost beat him. A red card for anything other than forfeiting a goal or two warnings will result in a three-match ban. However, the Football Association of England announced that the standard punishment for such a stunt would be "clearly not enough" - and banned the Serbian for eight games.
After the match, Mitrovic apologized for his aggressive behavior - Willian's removal seemed unfair. This will likely remain the same now. The leader of Fulham was suspended for eight matches, and in this case, the Serb will not play in the Premier League this season until the second half of May. This should be a cautionary tale to other players, as referee mistreatment has recently become a systemic problem in England.
A fan who ran onto the field broke the referee's ribs and nose
At the beginning of the current season, the FA dealt with two egregious disciplinary cases. The Cumbria player and the Greater Manchester coach received a 13.5-year ban! They were subjected to severe punishments for attacks on judges. According to documentary evidence, one of the referees was strangled, and everything could have ended fatally if not for the intervention of other players. In another case, the referee was punched twice in the back of the head after a player was sent off. In both cases, the police were involved.
The saddest thing is that this arbitrariness is widespread. The FA documents reveal many other dark moments. For example, the Hampshire referee complained that he was forced to stand in the rain after the match until the parking lot was free for safety reasons. Another official from Birmingham was beaten by a player who told him afterward: "I don't mind a one-year ban for beating you."
The best illustration of the massive outrage against referees is the data for last season in all English divisions. Three hundred eighty players and coaches have received suspensions for assaults or threats against match officials. In the 2022/2023 season, the problem not only did not disappear but even worsened. In October, Wigan umpire Dave Bradshaw suffered a dislocated shoulder, concussion, whiplash, broken ribs, and a broken nose. These are the aftermath of an attack on him during a match between Platte Bridge and Wigan Rose. The referee was injured by a 24-year-old Wigan fan who ran onto the field.
Such obscurantism is happening not only in adult football but also in children's and youth football. Last fall, the Merseyside Youth Football League, which hosts 7-17 tournaments, canceled all matches over the October weekend due to "multiple incidents of threatening behavior" towards officials.
"It all starts with children's football, in which it is considered normal in England to argue with the referees and threaten them. For many years we turned a blind eye to this, and now we have problems in adult football. I recently posted a video on social media of a woman walking around a field calling a 16-year-old referee a "fucking crook." Just in! said Martin Cassidy, chief executive of Ref Support UK, a helpline offering support to match officials.
Assistant referee pushed by Bruno Fernandes, Klopp fined £30,000
The President of the Association of Judges, Paul Field, also believes that the problem has become too large to be ignored: "Judges are under constant stress. They receive threats of stabbing, blowing up a car, and harming children. The only thing that hasn't happened yet is the judge's assassination. I didn't want someone to cross the line one day." It is not surprising that in such a situation, young and promising referees leave football and look for themselves in other areas. England has always been proud of its judges, but soon the country may need specialists of the level of Anthony Taylor or Michael Oliver.
In March, several cases of offensive behavior towards referees were recorded in England simultaneously. In that match at Old Trafford, in addition to Mitrovic, the Fulham coach Marco Silva could not cope with his emotions - he overlaid with strong words not only the referee but also the reserve referee. Remarkably, these events come just weeks after Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes shoved assistant referee Adam Nunn during his side's 0-7 thrashing of Liverpool.
In October 2022, Jurgen Klopp could not restrain himself, yelling at assistant referee Gary Beswick and receiving a red card for this in a 1-0 victory over Manchester City. "Of course, this is abnormal and unworthy; I apologize," the coach apologized after the game. The FA valued the German's misdemeanor at £30,000.
It is difficult to call such a fine an effective measure for a coach with a salary of € 17.8 million - most likely, in similar circumstances, he will behave in the same vein. Obviously, for other millionaires playing in the Premier League, fines have become the same norm as signing autographs. They are neither proactive nor preventive. In addition, the League Coaches Association (LMA) completely distances itself from criticism of specialists, which leads to normalizing such incidents and perceiving outrages as an integral and integral part of the game.
"When was the last time you heard criticism from the LMA? - highlights the problem, Cassidy. "They refuse to take responsibility, so it's not surprising that people from youth football copy the emotional frenzy. A bad example is contagious. I was recently told a case where a 14-year-old female referee serving a meeting of ten-year-olds left the field in tears due to insults from their parents. All this results from the lack of proper disciplinary measures at the level of adult football.
For the assault on the judges faces a lifetime disqualification
It can be said that football officials are only partially active. For example, in the Hull Youth League, an experiment was established in which the team lost a player for 10 minutes if he allowed an aggressive verbal attack on the referee. Also, from 2023, all regional football associations will hold weekly meetings to consider disciplinary issues. Physical contact with a referee can now result in a suspension of up to two years, with the recommended minimum starting at 182 days. Any attack that results in serious injury to an official will result in a five-year suspension to a lifetime ban.
However, the most effective measure to eliminate raids on judges has become body cameras, like those of the police. At the beginning of the year, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) granted the Football Association's request for their use in four regional leagues - Middlesbrough, Liverpool, Worcester, and Essex. Today, about 100 referees wear this equipment when officiating senior matches. "We have heard positive feedback from the refereeing community and hope that referees can enjoy working in a safe and inclusive environment," said FA Executive Director Mark Bullingham.
Body cameras keep players and coaches from insulting officials. The intruder is warned before recording begins by flipping a switch on a GoPro-sized camera. The footage can then be used in disciplinary cases against individuals. This technology was adopted by footballers from rugby, where this practice has been used since 2020.
"We launched a trial version in the National Conference League. Initially, they bought only eight cameras, then tripled their number after disciplinary proceedings became much smaller, - rejoices league judge Liam Moore. – When players see the camera, they cool down and are more responsible about what they do and say. The plans for the next season are to use 150 cameras because it is very effective. It is hoped that with such preventive measures, we will keep the 29,000 English referees safe – the lifeblood of our game."