It’s a well known saying that ‘Football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans and that Rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen’, and well, it’s true.
Footballers, both internationally and throughout all of the leagues, are constantly bombarding referees and officials over decisions that haven’t gone their way. I appreciate that professional football, or any sport for that matter, can get heated in the moment, and if they feel decisions go against them they may get angry, but it is something that needs to stop.
Is there a way to stop this? Yes. By introducing disciplinary methods for players that abuse the referees, it is likely to end or at least reduce the problem. A famous example of such methods being used is Dylan Hartley, a rugby player who was sent off for abusing referee Wayne Barnes in the Premiership final against Leicester Tigers. Hartley was given an 11 week ban, causing him to miss the Lions tour in Australia. Since then, he has been a saint and has become England’s first-choice hooker, ahead of Tom Youngs.
11 weeks may seem excessive and over the top, and it probably is, but it certainly worked.
The FA has recently stated how important is it for role models, like Rio Ferdinand, to keep their language on social media clean. I’m sure the same will apply to other players, off the pitch, but more importantly on the pitch.
Football fans are also culprits when it comes to disrespecting referees and officials – more so than the players themselves. I’ve been down to Carrow Road to support Norwich, during both cup ties and friendlies, and even then there’s the odd fan who’s being a nuisance and hurling offensive gestures and verbal abuse, despite the fact that Norwich are supposed to be the most behaved fans in the Football League.
Now, there’s no way to stop such a high volume of fans misbehaving, unless the amount of stewards are largely increased, but, even then, fans often escape or hide from the stewards if they are spotted. However, the players have nowhere to hide, with a dozen cameras on them and some very talented lip readers, there is no escape.