Referees Under Attack Print
Written by Matthew Hall, Sun Herald   
Sunday, 03 August 2008 17:11

Here's one story few people wanted to talk about.

Last weekend Sydney United, a club that used to play in the National Soccer League, hosted Manly United at their Edensor Park home ground for a Football New South Wales Premier League fixture.

This was one of the last games of the current season and both sides were jockeying for position ahead of the finals play-offs.

Manly United snatched a 1-0 win. Sydney United copped three red cards. There was, it would be fair to say, some drama.

Some people weren't happy, especially one particular bloke who followed referee Matthew Gillet (sic) toward the changing room after the final whistle.

According to an official report by Gillet, the aggrieved individual was full of anger and abuse and continued a bilious barrage toward the ref and his assistants as the match officials headed toward the supposed sanctity of their dressing room.

The heat, even in mid-winter, was hot. So hot, in fact, that the referee asked his abuser for his name so it could be included in his official report.

The response was further verbal abuse and an alleged physical interaction that makes Danny Vukovic's infamous Grand Final high-five with Mark Shield look like the slap it was.

But it didn't end there.

According to the report, the referee was pursued into his dressing room, his assistants and other match officials pushed out of the way in the process.

We can also throw in more alleged verbal threats just to emphasise some points.

Other match officials had to shield the referee as more alleged abuse rained down.

The report states that the individual had to be restrained by the official match commissioner and, after he refused to leave the referee's dressing room, had to be removed by match officials.

In normal circumstances, the alleged incident would be not just inappropriate . It would be totally inexcusable.

As Central Coast Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has discovered, no matter what you think of a referee's decision, it is what it is.

Vukovic's five seconds of madness last February impacted his career so deeply that he made international headlines in a way that he would not have expected nor wanted.

His personal bottom line is a ban from the Olympic Games, an event that should be a peak achievement for any athlete, and an unwanted and perhaps unfair reputation as a nutcase.

Unfortunately for Vukovic, his transgression came at a time when referees in Europe had grown tired of continual abuse from professional players.

Some of the worst examples manifest in England's Premier League where players from top teams like Manchester United and Chelsea swarm match officials to dispute decisions.

The dubious conduct of managers and coaches like Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Arsene Wenger does not assist referees in doing their job either.

Behaviour has become so militant that during Euro 2008, referees had the word 'RESPECT' embroidered onto their shirts so that explosive players might allow themselves a last chance to relax before they gave their opinion on a match official's opinion.

But abuse of referees, and their assistants, is not limited to the professional game.

Watch any amateur match, of any age or skill level, and the man or woman in the middle will cop it.

On occasion, I have refereed games in a Centennial Park pub league that I also played in when regular refs were hard to find or had simply failed to show up.

I would never do it ever again.

There are only so many times you can be abused by huffing and puffing beer-bellied hacks before the novelty of blowing a whistle wears off.

I thought I'd seen the worst of local amateur football until, in another hack league at Scarborough Park near Monterey in Sydney's south, a player swung a punch at a ref.

I watched as his team mates rushed in to, I thought, pull their hotheaded friend away.

But I was wrong. Very wrong.

Instead of dragging their friend from a potential fracas the entire team piled into the referee.

Which brings us back to Edensor Park last weekend.

The aggressive and abusive individual named in the referee's official report is Mr Sam Krslovic.

The same Sam Krslovic who is Vice-President of Football New South Wales and therefore one of the local game's most senior and supposedly influential administrators.

So if individuals of such apparent high standing are unable to treat referees with respect then what's left?

Why would anyone even bother to pick up a whistle?

Football Federation Australia is aware of last week's incident but as the game comes under the control of FNSW it, at this point, has no jurisdiction on this particular controversy.

But the governing body does have an opinion.

"FFA's view is that manhandling a referee is inexcusable and not to be tolerated," said a spokesperson.

Krslovic's alleged actions puts FNSW President Jim Forrest in a situation he probably never expected to find himself in.

Forrest explained in an email that FNSW's independent disciplinary tribunal, which looks at off-field incidents, will investigate.

"All parties will be present to argue their cased and a decision will be arrived at," Forrest wrote.

This won't happen until September, as one of the parties involved is away during August. Any appeal process ultimately stops at the door of FFA.

On Thursday, Krslovic told his President that he will "vigorously contest any allegations against him" but "is voluntarily standing aside from his position until the matter is dealt with,"

"I think Mr Krslovic has chosen the most honourable course of action and I commend him for what he is doing here," Forrest wrote.

This either means the referee's official match report in highly inaccurate or Krslovic's recollection of events is way wide of the mark.

On Friday night, referees met in Sydney to talk about a number of issues they face in their work. I was reliably informed Krslovic, and incidents like it, were discussed.

Whether the match officials view the deteriorating situation in the same way as the President of FNSW, and is elected colleagues, is another matter.

Which is, possibly, how this all began.