Wednesday 12 November ~
Derided as a weak PR stunt, the FA's painfully ironic “Respect” campaign looks to be heading into full damage-limitation mode with it haemorrhaging credibility by the week. It appears that just three months in, managers are considering not only withdrawing their support but even a possible “strike” of sorts in protest of the much-criticised initiative. It's being reported that some managers may hold players in the changing rooms to delay the start or restart of a game in an attempt to make a dramatic appeal to beleaguered referees' chief Keith Hackett.
Football is characterised by its room for human error. Many would argue it's a trait that is integral to the game itself but the campaign has so far only appeared to increase tensions between referees and managers. A strike may be an unlikely measure but the mere consideration illustrates the severe shortcomings of the initiative. This season has already produced one of the most bizarre (and worst) refereeing decisions of all time with the infamous “phantom goal” in the Watford v Reading fixture back in September. But Paul Jewell, quoted in the Guardian yesterday, believes it not just the poor decision making, it's the lack of accountability: “Every manager says they are hard-done-by after games but some of the injustices this season aren't right.”
“All we want,” he continued, “is for people to hold their hands up and say they made a mistake, whether it's a referee or a fourth official. They don't help themselves by cocooning themselves away like they're untouchable. Even if they had a go back, at least it's being human and not hiding behind a banner of 'Respect the ref'. Look at Aidy Boothroyd, he's lost his job now. That goal between Watford and Reading that was allowed by [Stuart] Attwell didn't cost him his job but it certainly didn't help.”
This month alone we've seen Joe Kinnear brand Martin Atkinson a “Mickey Mouse referee” (evidently keeping with his cartoon theme after his “Coco the Clown” outburst) and Roy Keane banished to the stands following a brief half-time chat with Atkinson during his side's 5-0 loss to Chelsea. Paul Ince, Tony Mowbray and Dave Jones have all recently publicly challenged refereeing performances too. The FA is pleading for more time but at this rate it may not even last the season. Respect, after all, is a two-way street. Dan Bryant