When referees have too much influence

If the Qantas Socceroos versus Japan game taught us anything it's that match officials need to stop grandstanding.

Wow... what a pulsating game of football between the Qantas Socceroos and Japan, but surely it would have been even better had the referee not been the one to have the ultimate say on the outcome.

Especially when he got the two deciding decisions blatantly wrong.

I don-t have a problem with referees making tough calls, in fact I usually applaud it. I do however have a problem when they become the focal point of a match that should never have been about them.

And it-s a worrying trend that has been going on for some time, not just in the world of football but in sports across the globe, because at their core referees are there to fold into the background, but these days they are finding more of the limelight.

If we look at tennis there was Serena Williams-s infamous 2009 US Open meltdown against Kim Clijsters in the semi-final where she lost the match as a result of a point penalty after threatening to “shove this expletive ball” down the linesperson-s throat.

Now while Williams-s actions aren-t really defensible in today-s politically correct sporting world they were the direct result of a match official making a contentious call at a key moment.

More recently boxer Manny Pacquiao appeared to be dudded out of his title fight with Timothy Bradley and all the news since has been about how the judges got it wrong.

Closer to home all we need to do is take a look at the dying seconds of the latest Hyundai A-League Grand Final to realise referee Jarred Gillett took centre stage and the fallout post match was alarming after he awarded a penalty to Besart Berisha.

Was there contact? Yes. Was it a penalty? Well that debate is still raging on.

So here we are after another major football match, again held at Suncorp Stadium and all the talk is of what the referee did.

There is little doubt that Saudi referee Khalil Al Ghamdi got both the sending off of Mark Milligan and the decision to award the Qantas Socceroos a penalty for the handling of Alex Brosque, (the same handling that happens in every corner of just about every game of football) wrong, Mark Bosnich slamming the referee.

“Mark Milligan was one of the worst decisions I have seen in international football, and this (the penalty) was the worst,” Bosnich said on Fox Sports.

Bozza is right, it was a shocking call, Brosque was hardly touched, the response from many football fans this writer knows is that the decision was a ‘square up- for the sending off of Milligan, or at least that-s what the texts on my phone say.

And you could make a case for it, to start with Milligan may or may not have even touched Atsuto Uchida, who then rolled around on the ground as if he had been the victim of a Kevin Muscat special. Simulation anyone?

The contact wasn-t malicious and it looked like Al Ghamdi was about to have himself a Graham Poll moment, for it took him a while and some pointing from the Blue Samurai for him to notice he had booked Milligan a second time. The referee looked crestfallen, like he didn-t want to give the red card to the Socceroo for what was an innocuous challenge.

Then there was the penalty to Brosque - fans were boisterously booing the referee and when Brosque was touched in the box, when manning up on the Japanese keeper the whistle was blown and Luke Wilkshire squared things up from the spot.

Controversy reigned and the game ended 1-1, the referee again playing a larger role than he had a right to.

Surely it-s time for a change, whether that be that referees are held to higher standards or replays are introduced.

The result last night may still have been a draw, but we-ll never know, because the referee had too great a say and surely qualifying for FIFA-s showpiece doesn-t need to be marred by incorrect decisions of officials deciding key matches.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and not Football Federation Australia.