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Refereeing: A thankless task



Football fans have several excuses when their team haven’t quite carved out the desired results – notably the quality of the pitch, the fixture scheduling and, of course, the referee. The culture we have in football today ensures that referees double up as scapegoats as well as match officials, with every small mistake punished pitchside with a crescendo of abuse. What I want to explore is; to what extent is this justifiable?

Firstly, I think it’s important to recognise that, as a nation, we all fancy ourselves as footballing experts. In reality, I would argue the average football fan in this country knows only a portion of the rules of the beautiful game. Refereeing runs in my family, my Grandfather having officiated at Divison One level in the post-war era (for those who don’t tend to believe in football before Sky, that’s the Premier League). I’ve seen several of my Dad’s rulebooks and the length of these books can extend into hundreds of pages. Bear in mind the rules are listed in bullet points beneath each category, very little is left to discussion or explanation.

For example, I can quite confidently say I’m pretty sure most people in the UK are completely unaware it is, in fact, impossible to score an own goal from a free kick – the ball is then given as a corner. Equally, if a player attempts to flick the ball up and then head it back to the keeper, thus avoiding a traditional “back pass”, it is automatically a yellow card offence. Substitutes cannot take throw-ins or corners when they come on as it means they have technically not entered the field of play. Whilst these are all trivial rules that make no difference to the majority of professional games – I feel it raises a significant point; we slate referees for being unfit to do their job, when in fact we don’t even know how to carry their job out in the slightest. It would be like watching F1 on the TV then marching into Lewis Hamilton’s garage and telling his engineers you know how to make the car work perfectly.

Secondly, bias. This one never fails to amuse me when I’m watching my own team, Swindon Town. Even from our own supporters, a single decision against our team results in accusations of bias, which only flares up if someone finds out the referee is from within 100 miles of the opposition’s ground. All I’ll say is; there is a reason they don’t print where the referee is from on the back of match day programmes anymore.

The bias accusations always amuse me because, firstly, the FA takes measures to ensure a referee is never appointed to a game where there is any conflict of interest. The extent to which they monitor this is shown in Graham Poll, who supported QPR as a child but let his support abate once it became clear he was entering into an impartial career path in football. The FA still kept a note on his file saying “lapsed Queens Park Rangers supporter”. So the attention to detail on appointing referees to games in which they have nothing to impair their judgement is stringent by the governing body – why on earth would they bring their own game into disrepute?

Equally – what does a referee gain from being biased? National television coverage about an incident that will almost certainly lose him any respectability amongst his peers, end his refereeing career in terms of progressing up the ladder and make him a household name synonymous with cheating? Sounds like a bit of a raw deal just to give a penalty against your beloved side, to me.

Now for the big one – mistakes in refereeing. Please don’t assume because it’s a family affair I look at refereeing with rose-tinted spectacles. Quite frankly, some of the refereeing in this country is farcical at times – getting the identity of a red-carded player wrong and giving “ghost goals” in Championship matches standing as two notable examples. Both of these incidents are clear examples of the match officials not doing their job correctly. No argument.

However, why is it acceptable in modern football for a player to make a mistake and get an endearing little ‘just had a off day’ from supporters? Both the players and the referee are human, so why is the treatment the same? Some would argue the referee is paid good money to get the decisions correct. Fair point – but aren’t the players paid so much more to play to a consistently high standard and avoid the need for refereeing decisions to pose any threat to them taking home the three points?

Another one we commonly get is ‘the occasion got to him’. Bear in mind that, just as an FA Cup Final is one of the pinnacles of a players career, the same is true of the referee. He will have been officiating for the best part of two decades to reach that point – nerves and mistakes are just as natural, if not more for the officials. Although, having said that, the officials work towards their ultimate ambition for a longer period of time – given most top-flight referees are older than the players – so you could say they have more experience on which to avoid making ridiculous errors.

Also, I would imagine a referee is able to make his best calls when he is comfortable, relaxed, able to concentrate and aware of his surroundings. So how, as a nation, we’ve decided the best way to blame our team’s shortcomings is on an official trying to concentrate amidst a crescendo of noise is beyond me. We can hardly preach the shortcomings of referees if we can’t accept we don’t exactly make the position of the match official any easier. Imagine trying to focus on your office job with a group of screaming children lining the edges of your desk. It’s effectively the same thing. Though I imagine the children would chant more intelligently than some sets of fans I’ve come across – no names.

Refereeing is far from a perfect discipline at the moment. Technology is only just catching up, poor calls are still made in the most important games and, as a practice, there seems to have emerged a clear divide between officials and the rest of the footballing world. My case in point would be the ‘Respect’ campaigns initiated by the FA in recent years.

However, whilst it is perfectly acceptable, and true, to say refereeing needs some reforms, I ask you; should we not also be looking at ourselves? We don’t make it easier – we make it worse. One day shouting abuse and distracting the officials could cost your team.

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Damian is an A-Level student from Trowbridge, Wiltshire. He is a supporter of Swindon Town and will (hopefully!) be starting at the University of Southampton in September to study History.


The never-ending thrill of sports



Today, the world of sports is not just limited to the real ground and fields, but have moved on to the virtual world. One can enjoy watching their favourite sports such as football, cricket, rugby, tennis, cycling, and horse racing online. They can book their tickets for their favourite sports or watch them online right from within the comforts of their home. It is no surprise to see the mix of sports betting and casinos.

After all, it is hard to keep one segregated from the other. Browse NJ online casino to learn more about those popular sports and online betting. Many sports lovers love to make bets on sports to show their passion for the game.

The sports media

Sports journalists paly an essential role of maintaining the of press provision at the famous venues of the sports. The idea is to spread awareness regarding the high standards of sports and keep the buzz alive around them. Ever since the advent of the internet, the websites and now the smartphones, the sports media has taken off in a big way.

Now fans can enjoy their favorite games with just a few clicks or use social media apps to keep a tap on the current scores, almost anywhere at any time. There are Sports apps that provide updates, game schedules and much more. Sports fans can enjoy real-time results right when it happens. They need not be at the game or at home in front of their television to see how their favorite sports star is doing.

This is a good scenario for all the sports fans as they can now get regular updates on their favorite games and teams anytime. Online sports betting is not far behind and is fast gaining popularity. There are plenty of websites such as NJ online casino where one can enjoy casino games and bet on their favorite sports.

The experience takes their thrill to a whole new level. The gambling opportunities are quite abundant and comprise betting online sports and loads of others games. The software used for online sports and gambling are very easy to install. This is good news for all the novice gamblers out there.

Basketball and football have always enjoyed immense popularity across the world, and their total revenues are already breaking records. Football leagues around the world are raking in more money than ever before. N.B.A., the American sports league, is still one of the most popular brands in China and has more than 70 million followers. Spain’s biggest basketball teams are getting affiliated with their football counterparts.

However, it is the football that is the most heavily financed and dominant one. Popular sportsmen and international athletes get followed on social media. Cristiano Ronaldo leads with more than 127 million followers on Twitter and Facebook.

Do not miss out on any of those best sporting events happening across the world. Indulge your sporting passion and make sure that you get the best experience.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by kangkang300402

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The biggest fixing scandals in the history of football




Of all the sports played across the globe, football has had some of the most spectacular match-fixing scandals ever seen.

Of course, football isn’t the only sport that is prone to fixing scandals. History’s top fixing incidents have occurred in horse racing, cricket, and even tennis, showing just how widespread the issue really is. FIFA’s Chris Eaton has described fixing as a crisis that threatens the entire integrity of the game, and when you take a look at history’s 7 most notorious football-fixing cases, you’ll see why.

Calciopoli (2006)

In May 2006, the Italian police cracked open the massive scandal that involved many of Italy’s top teams. Juventus, AC Milan, Reginna and Fiorentina were all involved, with the teams’ managers and referees having been caught conspiring to fix major league matches. Juve was relegated to Serie B and lost several league titles, while other team presidents were banned and fined.

Marseille (1993)

This French FC inspired outrage with its fixing involvement. The team apparently approached members of other local teams and asked them to throw games away, with former manager of Monaco Arsene Wenger dropping a big hint that uncovered the ordeal after losing to Marseille in the two years prior.

The Referee Robert Hoyzer Scandal (2005)

Referee Robert Hoyzer was banned and sentenced to two years in jail after he was caught accepting bribes to fix football matches for Croatian bar owner Ante Sapina. Hoyzer was convicted of fixing numerous matches in the 2nd and 3rd German tiers along with Bundesliga cup matches, in which he also awarded many controversial red cards and penalties to further his cause.

Plateau United Scores Too Many Goals (2013)

To earn a spot in Nigeria’s professional ranks, two teams fixed their matches, but their winning totals cast a spotlight on their plan and the Nigerian FA banned all 4 clubs involved for 10 years. The Plateau United Feeders scored an unbelievable 79-0 win, and the Police Machine FC won their match 67-0.

Belarusian Ghost Match (2015)

Two major betting agencies were caught offering bets and paying out on the results of a ‘ghost match’ in Belarus that never actually took place. The 2-1 result of FC Slutsk and Shakhter Soligorsk was confirmed by an official from the former team, only to have the story unravel later on. A former data collection company employee was found to be the brains behind the con.

SEA Games Fixing (2015)

Singaporean player Rajendran R. Kurusamny received the highest-ever prison term given to a fixer on a single charge when he was caught conspiring to fix 2015 SEA Games matches. The player received a 4-year sentence after his plot was ousted, having made over eight payments to Malaysian players to ensure they lost.

Spiked Water Bottles in Italy (2010)

Players in an Italian 3rd division match began to feel very lethargic and disorientated – only to find out goalkeeper Marco Paolini had spiked his team’s water bottles to fix the match in an attempt to pay off gambling debts. Paolini was banned for 5 years, and some believe the scam was linked to notorious fixing mogul Dan Tan.

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Four international football tournaments you’ve probably never heard of…



We all know the big boys get all the glory in football – well, nine times out of ten they do. Tournaments like the World Cup, Premier League, Champions League and Euros may be the most lucrative and widely broadcast tournaments, but that doesn’t mean they’re the “biggest”.

There’s no shortage of other international tournaments to tickle your fancy! And they’re well worth watching – with thousands of players and thousands of goals – they can be some of the most entertaining football tournaments to watch. Here are four to get you started:

1) The Norway Cup

Running every year bar one since 1972, the Norway Cup is more like a football festival – and the whole world is invited.

Held on the green expanse of Ekebergsletta in Oslo, the week-long 2016 tournament broke new ground with 2,199 teams competing over the course of 6,000 games – all aimed at crowning the best youth outfits in the world.

From hosting 10-19-year-old footballers, the cup has expanded to include three-a-side football so those from the age of six can join in the fun.

So not only is it the world’s largest youth football tournament, it’s already got more than three decades of history behind it. In fact, the only reason it probably doesn’t get more coverage is the work it would take to cover the 6,000 games taking place in one week!

It’s certainly not because it doesn’t deserve it. There are great stories of success and even the occasional bit of controversy to keep things interesting during the brief interludes between games: this year, the Russian team were thrown out after its players were said to have “gone berserk” on the field, violently attacking their rivals.

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2) The Gothia Cup – otherwise known as The World Youth Cup

So Norway has the biggest youth football tournament but did you know it has a neighbourly rival called the World Youth Cup?

The Gothia Cup in Sweden runs every July and caps its entry at 1,600 teams – be them school teams based either locally or abroad. It started back in 1975 – yet that first tournament included girls’ teams; a huge success and far from the norm.

Over the years, more than a million – yes, a million! – players from 141 countries have participated. It’s well worth watching too: in an “average” year more than 22,000 goals are scored, more than five per match!

As if the goal bonanza wasn’t enough, it’s heritage is first class. It’s featured some of the world’s most famous players who played at the 2006 World Cup including: Xabi Alonso (Spain), Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Ze Roberto (Brazil), José Montiel (Paraguay), Kim Källström and Teddy Lucic (Sweden).

If you didn’t catch it this year on TV, head over to the website. It carries its own live coverage for a subscription charge – but you can’t help feel it deserves a bit more. Especially that opening ceremony.

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3) The Conifa World Football Cup

Conifa – the acronym – sounds like one of the fir trees you might expect to see in Sweden – where its first “world football cup” was held in June 2014, in Ostersund. But it stands for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations – also known as a different world for the beautiful game to thrive, and the result is something quite remarkable.

Conifa puts on its tournament for a veritable feast of states and stateless people, regions and minorities unaffiliated with Fifa such as Greenland, Tibet and Western Armenia – Conifa gives them a chance to show the world exactly what they can do.

“Our main goal is to give football outsiders overseen by Fifa or left behind by their mother country’s FA the chance to win their place on a global stage and advance, football-wise and personally,” said Conifa general secretary Sascha Düerkop.

It’s more than a noble cause. It’s essential. And it’s competitive. Occitania top the current rankings from Panjab and Northern Cyprus – yet it was hosts Abkhazia who won the 2016 tournament in June. The Conifa World Football Cup feels like it’s about something more than just glory hunting – a stark contrast to Fifa’s World Cup.

It’s growing in popularity too with four new members joining in 2016. Two from Africa: Western Sahara and Matabeleland, and two from Europe, Délvidék and Karpatalya.

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4) The Gulf Cup of Nations

Sure, the Euros and Copa America fire up football imaginations across the world – the best nations in Europe and South American respectively doing football battle on an epic stage. But there is something captivating about a little-covered equivalent in the Gulf.

Also known as the Arabian Gulf Cup, the four-yearly tournament is not sanctioned by Fifa – which probably adds to the charm, as some of the world’s wealthiest states thrash it out on the pitch.

On the calendar since 1970, Kuwait is by some way the most successful nation with 10 titles – not bad for a country with a population of approaching 4,000,000. Saudi Arabia, for contrast, is second place with three titles to their name.

It’s Qatar’s turn in 2017 – five years before the state will host the Fifa World Cup. The eyes of the world should be on how they perform and with improving TV coverage in recent years, it may be the world is about to experience more of the Arabian Gulf Cup.

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