Arnie Wrongly Flagged Offside

263135-389351b6-5a87-11e4-9622-df312bf171adAs a general rule of thumb I don’t like to feel sympathy for people. It makes it harder to call them names and use my inner monologue to say scathing things about everything from their integrity to their haircut.

When I consider this, it’s a bit strange that I find myself feeling so sorry for Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold.

After some pretty horrendous officiating in the A-League, which culminated in a cracker of a goal being ruled offside when it really wasn’t, Arnold let fly at the standard of refereeing in the league;

They (the refs) do it every week, they may as well just give the Championship trophy to the referees because they decide what’s going on

This one isn’t so bad. Without the refs to decide what’s going on the game would be anarchy, and ultimately, in their role as referees, they do decide the game – but Arnie wasn’t done, and he got far-less vague very quickly.

You can talk about the A-League and the standard, but until (the referees) lift their standards…. Every game I’ve watched in the A-League there is some rotten decisions that cost points.

Perhaps the claim most leapt upon was “the refs ruin games every week and tonight they’ve ruined goal of the year”

It must also be said that Arnold acknowledged that A-League referees are ‘part-time’.

Leaving aside whether or not it was GOTY (it was great, no denying that), it’s probably that sentiment in particular that has since seen Arnold cited under the FFA code of conduct. The current status is that Arnie has been asked “to explain his comments”.

The fact that the FFA don’t seem to understand what he was talking about and need an explanation is indicative enough of the problem.

Now – First­ – I must say, as a Wanderers fan you might think I’m sympathising with Arnie’s claims simply because we’re winless at the bottom of the ladder, but don’t. I’ve a healthy amount of overall contempt for the quality of officiating in the league, not just for our games, and not just against WSW. Even the games I’ve gone to and bemoaned have been horribly officiated both ways – and besides, of all the problems in Parramatta at the moment the quality of officiating is the least of them.

Second – The standard of refereeing in the A League IS woeful, and the referees really ARE ruining games every week. What’s even worse is the fact that you can do a quick Google search and discover that the A-League has been ‘considering’ the move to full-time refs since the start of the season before this one, to address the very same complaints – so this is nothing new. This isn’t about an insistence for technological assistance or revolutionising the way the game is played, but a call for full-time referees.

As Arnold says, how can the quality of the play on the pitch improve if the refereeing doesn’t?


Some who agree with the FFA claim that Sydney FC had enough chances to win the game, and that, being paid professionals, they should be getting it right. Seemingly the goalkeeper doesn’t come into play anymore. But does anyone believe that even if Sydney had won the game 3-0 Arnold wouldn’t have felt aggrieved by the call? I don’t.

Yes, football is about taking your chances more than anything, but what happens when you do take your chance and it’s chalked off due to a bad call? How can a player or manager get into a tactical groove when something that wasn’t whistled only 2 minutes ago gets a whistle this time around? You can’t deny that the quality of the officials is holding back the growth of quality in the league.

Consistency is what everyone is lamenting the absence of, although the referees in the league HAVE been consistent – consistently shit.

Yes, it’s fun for us all to sit on the sidelines and yell muted profanity at the officials because there are kids sitting in front of us, but I think you’ll find that nearly all fans, and players, and managers in the league want the refs to be paid more and made full-time – but only if the standard is set to improve.

Perhaps part of the problem is that the FFA have such little faith in their own officials abilities to improve that they believe such a move wouldn’t return a dividend.

Yes, there are appalling calls from officials in most Australian sports – the Indian Cricket Team are a perfect example of being on the wrong end, particularly after their refusal to use the DRS system. The NRL, AFL – they all have them. What makes most of these calls different, though, is that the overall standard of officiating is of a higher quality, which makes these calls fewer and further between, and I suppose all the more alarming when they do happen.

By contrast the A-League is rife with howlers mixed with officiating that is, overall, of a very low standard.

The response to Arnold’s criticism, while ‘official’, is another opportunity lost to truly look at the standard of officiating. Instead the debate will most likely shift onto whether or not Arnold should be cited in the first place, and the refs will get away with it again.

What’s the solution? Stuffed if I know, I’m just someone who likes to complain a lot – but the FFA is making a mistake if they think Arnold’s comments are a bitter gripe from a coach who didn’t win as opposed to a sentiment held widely throughout the league by fans and even some players.

For the game to move forward on the pitch and in the stands all aspects need to be taken seriously. I find it hard to believe the League hasn’t found a way to start making progress on this issue other than chucking it into the usual early-season rhetoric every year, doing nothing, and then reprimanding people for criticising it.

Whether it’s sending our top officials over to Europe during the off-season to get some more training, whether it’s taking them on full-time and paying them properly to do their jobs, whether it’s a ranking system that increases accountability and puts the onus back on officials to ensure high standards, something needs to be done.

The month off presents a great opportunity for the FFA to take a look at the issue, but instead they’ll probably be too busy patting themselves on the back (and elsewhere) for the Asian Cup – although whether they really think Oman vs Kuwait will sell out Hunter Stadium is interesting to ponder, but that’s another issue.

I don’t entirely blame the referees for the decline in quality, and I don’t think Arnold was either. Yes they’re the ones making the calls, and they should be held accountable, but they’re only human, and trying to do a good job (you’d like to hope), but without proper support from the institution they represent it’s bound to be difficult.

The FFA might think that by citing Arnold they’re showing solidarity with their ‘part-time employees’, but all they’re doing is reprimanding someone for having the tenacity to criticise the all-powerful institution and maybe even develop a dialogue for change. You know what kind of governing bodies usually do that?


It’s come at a good time for the FFA, with the season about to take a month-long break. Sadly for Arnold, for the teams and fans around the league, and even the referees themselves, there’s a good chance we’ll just be having this conversation again come the first week of February when everything goes back to normal.


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