People on many occasions point the accusing fingers at match officials when decisions of referees during football matches appear bias or unfair. In some people’s opinion, the referees “sell the match,” a phrase which people use to describe a situation where football clubs or officials liaise with betting companies for a fee, so as to manipulate the outcome of football matches; others however think such is not possible, especially with the introduction of the Video Assistant Referees (VAR), but wherever the truth lies, the outcome of matches have on many occasions been largely influenced by referees.
After matches, many decisions of referees have been overruled, especially when it involves sending a player off, and some referees have been served suspension due to blatant errors on-field. But these later acts do not make up for games lost and points dropped. And sadly, these losses sometimes go a long way to define the season for some clubs.
Using Arsenal Football Club as a case study, earlier this year, in their clash against Manchester City at Emirates Stadium, the decision to award the opponent a penalty after a gentle pull by Granit Xhaka on in defense, and later to send Gabriel (Magalhaes) off, was met with a lot of criticisms, not only by Arsenal fans but also many pundits who felt that the decisions were harsh and not fair enough, while others took to social media to give their views, some call it a daylight robbery, and others who were at the venue did their bits in booing the central referee with chants like, “How much are they paying you?” But these did not make up for what had already been done, as the gunners went ahead to lose the match at full time.
There were also the rumour last year that Southampton requested last that referees Mike Dean and Lee Masons be banned from their officiating their matches, because of a number of wrong decisions. Many clubs in the Premier League have complained about these decisions especially when it appears one-sided, but the truth remains that neither the complaints nor eventual actions by the FA makes up for what has already been lost in a match.
In a broader perspective, the situation could be the issue with life generally; when the final decisions in competitions are left in the hands of humans who can easily be influenced by emotions or other hidden motives, the best will not always win. Sometimes it is the interest or mistakes of the person in charge that wins the day. Whether in political contests, football matches, or judgments in courts of law, if the officiating is poor, even the best is rendered helpless. Their decisions even when clearly wrong may not be reversible, and even if the referees gets punished later, fines and suspensions do not sufficiently compensate for three points which sometimes would eventually define the season for some clubs.