Some people think that football referees are helpless and just doing their jobs. Others think that football referees are hapless and only doing their jobs because they would be hopeless in interviews for any others.
Each of these views is, I can reveal today, incorrect.
Referees do not just apply rules dreamed up by old men who otherwise avoid making difficult decisions over the more important considerations of their fading days such as hair dye usage or acceptable limits of denture care. Referees can interpret the rules of the game; hell, some of them even speak other languages, which can be really useful in more far-flung football outposts such as Exeter or Hartlepool.
Ever since Anders Frisk released his seminal autobiography – ‘Oh to be Frank, now that half-time is here again’ – and admitted a passion for yellow shirts which cunningly disguised one of the cards in his back pocket, referees have been under investigation for following what is thought to be a secret code.
This mysterious set of rules is known only to people with whistles, readers of ‘Mein Kampf’ and anyone who still has the vinyl version of ‘My Way’ and a record deck that can play it backwards at 16 RPM where the last track allegedly spirals into a series of clues about the death of the FA.Through a specialist
Through a specialist intermediary, I can now reveal a small part of the code which has come into my own, tiny piece of hyperspace (a similar size to that occupying Frank de Boer’s conscience which says, ‘you know what, I could be wrong here.’):
• Do not ever award Manchester United a penalty at Old Trafford, especially after Jose Mourinho (with great foresight, actually) once confirmed that: “it is forbidden to give a penalty against Manchester United and forbidden to give any penalties in favour of Chelsea;”
• If Mark Hughes looks as though he has been overdoing it again with the blow dryer, whistle for a Stoke City player – any Stoke City player, including the goalkeeper if necessary, – to be offside, just to see that lovely hair part like the waters of the Caldon Canal when Peter Crouch decides to take a well-earned dip;
• Never, ever let Juventus win a Champions League Final. If video evidence supports their case for a winning goal, just pull the plug out of the screen and say, “I can only make my judgements based on what I see with my own eyes on the pitch;”
• If Raheem Sterling ever scores a winning goal for Manchester City or Arsenal or any other club and seems quite happy about it, send him off because, as we saw at Liverpool he’s only really in it for the money;
• If you are refereeing a match featuring Kyle Walker, send him off as soon as you can get away with it. There doesn’t need to be any particular reason for your decision and most of the nation will support you;
• If Cesc Fabregas starts clapping your decisions, either get one of your assistants to trip him up and accidentally stand on his head or just send him off for being Spanish;
• Always allow West Brom to score from set-pieces, no matter what provocation they may receive from defenders in the penalty area. Treat this as your contribution to charity;
• If Rafa Benitez ever appears on the touchline wearing a three-piece, woollen suit, warn him first over his conduct then stand him to the stands where it will be cooler;
• If Diego Costa ever plays football again, remember that he once played for Chelsea and disallow every goal that he scores; when the fun of that wears off, just remind him, in your best Portuguese, that he could have been a folk hero in the Brazilian national team: decisions, decisions eh!