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Can football learn from rugby’s respect for referees?

Chelsea may have won the premier league but they have the worst reputation for disrespecting officials and are regularly criticised for this according to Football Association Fair Play delegates. We’ve seen it happen countless times in both amateur and professional football – players crowding round referees intimidating and trying to influence their decisions, generally showing a lack of discipline and respect. Contrast this with rugby however and we see a very different attitude towards the officials by the players. Can football learn a thing or two from rugby, or is respect something that has to be earned and are too many mistakes being made by football officials to be taken seriously? The chasers of the egg-shaped ball have long been commended on the respect they show the referees and officials involved in the game. Rarely is a decision questioned by a player and commentary between referee and player is available to the audience through microphone. This is sadly not the case in the majoriy of football, where players surround the referee while a decision is being made and then argue the outcome once it has been decided. This, coupled with the fact that some players have a reputation for diving at every opportunity and making a big deal out of every little tackle in order to gain the free kick has left many wondering where the basic respect and sportsmanship has gone in football? English top Rugby Union referee Wayne Barnes has discussed this difference in respect before and attributes it to the fact that he knows the players before they even get on the pitch and has a good relationship with them before the first whistle blows as well as after. “We’re pretty lucky in that after a match I’ll go and sit down and have a meal or a drink with the players and coaches and discuss our performance”. Barnes also states that he and his coaches go into clubs on a weekly basis so that there is a mutual understanding of what is being done, leading to a better relationship that translates on to the pitch. Barnes advocates a similar approach being introduced in football as at the moment the relationship simply doesn’t exist to the same extent. In roads have been made in to this area with football referees now visiting premier league clubs at least twice a year to talk to players and answer questions, yet, despite this, respect still seems far less than in rugby. There are those who argue that respect has to be earned  however and that too many perceived errors by referees have left players with little respect or trust during the match. Respect can be seen as a two way street and cutting down on some of the more ridiculous decisions that sometimes occur may lead to more respect from both parties. This coupled with football referees being more firm but fair in their approach such as in rugby may lead to an increase in respect and hopefully less instances of theatrical diving in order to get the free kick. Football certainly has a ways to go to increase the player/referee respect level, but perhaps through increased communication and a decrease in errors, mutual respect can be built. Do you think football can learn from rugby in terms of respecting the referee, or are things okay as they are at the moment?

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