November 3, 2013

Be Honest as a Referee

As often stressed in this blog, referees are humans and may make mistakes like players are doing as well. Sometimes, referees might have an immediate feeling and impression about whether there decision has been right or wrong. The best recipe is to forget about that and to not even allow such a process of doubts in order to not be influenced by it in any way. Things are different though when referees are advised to change their mind by their assistant referees. Florian Meyer has experienced that last Friday.

In the 42nd minute in the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and VfB Stuttgart, an away team forward entered the penalty area and was allegedly touched and fouled by a Dortmund defender (Großkreutz). Meyer whistled, hesitated and then started to point to the spot. He was surrounded by players from both teams and then decided to correct his own decision. No penalty, no simulation! (You can watch this video starting at match minute 41:20).
In a post-match interview, Meyer stated: "I have whistled too early. My referee team have then informed me that it had not been a penalty from their point of view. I have never done something like that, but it was the correct decision". De facto, it was AR2 Christoph Bornhorst (FIFA) who advised Meyer to change his mind. One may well doubt whether this potential challenge happened in his area of responsibility or vicinity, but in the end, the decision was indeed correct. Stuttgart manager Bobic ironically commented: "This assistant must have the eyes of an eagle." 
Of course this situation should be avoided, but in fact such scenarios are inevitable. They can and will happen, like they happened to Antony Gautier in a EL match this season.
Finally Meyer correctly re-started the match with a dropped ball as featured by the Laws of the Game. He still found the time and had the courage to explain his decision to the furious Stuttgart players. And this should be the essence of this post:
If your assistants are sure that you have made a clear mistake, change your mind. Law 5 allows that. Don't stick to your original decision being clearly told that it had been wrong. Be honest enough to admit your humaneness to the players (and on the highest level, also to the supporters). Doing that is a strength and may help you to increase the respect you are savouring from that. And if then the final decision is even correct, what do you want more?


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