Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fair Play: UFL refs under the spotlight again

AFTER the PFF Adidas Under 19 national finals in Cebu in 2004, I joined a few refs in a post-tournament liquid meal.

What I learned when their tongues got loose was surprising--they can, could and would favor a team if they want to. And they'd get away with it, too.
It's all about how refs are treated, they said.  If a host of a tournament gives them the red carpet treatment and then some, they'd give it 60-40 for the host. No, they don't talk about this nor plan it.  Sometimes, when a particular host treats them well, non-consequential fouls aren't called in favor of the host or overlooked.  However, they said this doesn't apply to offside calls and penalties as these are game changers.  And besides, mistakes or non-calls on these incidents would be glaring.

"Only in 50-50s," they said.

And because there are no TV replays that put their calls under scrutiny, and they really don't have to explain their decisions, they'd get away with this seemingly innocent favoritism. Of course, other refs aren't stupid and notice these things.  And afterwards, it is during their assessment session or when the referee assessor talks to them that these things are pointed out.  Yes, that's how important the role of an assessor is.

The officiating, again, has been questioned in that crucial Kaya vs. Global match last Thursday. Global blew a 2-0 lead and lost, 3-2, losing its title retention bid in the process.  And this time, the mistakes are replayed on TV.

There were a lot of controversial calls and for me, the most glaring one was the penalty on Carlie de Murga when the replay showed Eric Dragboh simply lost his balance.  If that was a penalty, then that foul on Izzo El-Habbib in the box should have been called in the second half.  (Click here to see video of that call)

Now before you start springing conspiracy theories, I don't believe the refs conspired against Global. They simply missed those calls.

Now that matches are aired on TV, the UFL should review that match and the calls of the referee.  Late in the game, there was another call and this time, it was the Kaya bench that was up on arms.  While jostling for position, with the ball in mid-flight, a Kaya defender was called for a foul just outside the box.  It was an obvious make-up call for Global that had the free-kick went in, we would never hear the end of it. When refs start making make-up call, they sort of acknowledge mistakes in previous calls.

I hope the league have a review system for the referees, and if needed, sanction those who bungle crucial calls.  For me, the officiating, not the conduct of some Ultras Kayas deserve more scrutiny.

The clubs are improving their game, hiring players from all over the world, yet it seems, the level of officiating in the UFL hasn’t changed. We can’t have a title chase swing on one call.

Even the PBA, Asia’s first pro league, is hounded by controversial calls but conspiracy talks are nipped in the bud by a league that quickly sanctions erring refs.

There will never be an end to controversial calls but what the UFL can do is upgrade the level of its officiating so the clubs can start having confidence on them.

You’d just have to check the twitter feeds after some matches to know that some UFL refs have developed a reputation for always bungling calls.  It’s sad how some have begun to accept such bad calls are normal because it’s their favorite ref on the court.  If everybody knows a ref normally bungles calls, why give him a Division 1 match?

And it's not that we lack good refs. We have them, they are just not in the UFL. Some are in Macau working as refs or trainers.

Like I said, Philippine football needs the UFL—this is where our players, coaches, trainers and yes, referees, will find future employment. The level of officiating has to change in the league.

I hope that will come soon.

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