In our zoom call with the UAEFA, we discussed the launch of the new exciting Division 3. During the meeting, many other important issues were addressed. The main concern of the coaches was the dissatisfaction with the referees. Being a coach myself, I have had my share of disagreements with referees throughout my career. I can relate to the concerns expressed and am, therefore, in a better position to objectively analyze the situation and give my perspective from both ends.
My honest take on this matter is that yes it is very tough to find competent referees, especially at the youth level. It takes time to build mental strength and you also need strong analytical skills to be a good judge of the game. A referee should be able to tackle pressure and integrity also comes into play when making impartial game-changing decisions. Realistically speaking it is a hard job and most people do not realize the pressure under which the referees work.
During my coaching tenure, I have also served as a match referee both at the junior and senior levels. I can say from my experience that it is a very stressful job indeed. Imagine 11 versus 11 players moving at top speed after one ball with the referee keeping an eye on everything. Mistakes are inevitable. A referee cannot afford to relax when the game is on.
Of course, in modern times, technology has advanced and we have a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system that helps things definitely have improved! This technology enables us to see multiple camera angles and slow-motion replays as well, but it cannot be said that it has made the game error-free. It's a really difficult job even with video technology because technology with all its advantages is not perfect. Given this case scenario, it will be unfair to put all the blame on a referee.
Finding a professional referee is thus a dilemma! The big question for every league organizer is how to get hold of polished referees because firstly not many people enjoy being a referee as it is a very demanding job with little appreciation. Secondly, even if you find referees, capable ones are very few because it takes experience and exposure to become an expert. Thirdly, we must give referees the margin of error and the due credit they deserve. Even though we now have four referees in football, the VAR system, mistakes still do occur, because we are humans. Just keep that in mind and be fair.
The bottom line is that coaches will always complain and the referees will always find themselves in intense situations and criticized for most decisions. Thus, it becomes all the more crucial for referees to be on their toes, have strong nerves, and be ready to take criticism because the team that doesn’t win will always complain.