Friday, 11 February 2011

It's a ref's life

On the way to watch Dumbarton triumph over Alloa Athletic last weekend, I bumped into David Brownlie on the train. (It's a rather strange route from Edinburgh. You have to travel via Stirling. But it's still a while lot easier to reach since they opened the station at Alloa a couple of years ago).

Anyway, David goes to watch the Sons fairly often these days, but in the past he was a professional referee. So that's where the conversation drifted. Many years ago, when I realised that I had no chance whatsoever of playing the game I love at any significant level, the thought of refereeing occurred to me. But other possibilities and priorities submerged the idea. Watching the game these days and listening to the reactions around me, I'm rather glad.

Almost every decision that doesn't go 'our' way (whoever 'we' happens to be) tends to get grumbled about at best, or greeted with a volley of abusive accusations of partisanship, at worst. Just as kids are forced into adulthood too soon in the hothouse climate of children's and youth football (egged on by parents "living the dream"), so it seems that we adults are often pushed back into regressive childhood assumptions that anything that goes wrong in life is a personal insult, a conspiracy or the fault of the rule-keepers.

Debates about the laws of the game, training and technology rage on. But the basic issue is that the men and women in the middle have a relatively thankless and ill-remunerated task. Even so, they do their best, work hard to improve, and make the game possible. I might not always like their decisions, but I'm grateful.

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