JEP comment: Hard-hitting punishments needed for football abusers

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THOSE who know me will not be surprised to hear that I possess a disciplinary record identical to Gary Lineker’s (zero yellows, zero reds), which as a defender is borderline inexcusable.

It’s probably a better indication of my lack of ability (elephant touches) and reluctance to open my dust-covered wallet to pay a fine (who’s buying?) than anything else, but at the same time it is something I’m reasonably proud of.

I realise that discussing the issue of discipline in football having never put a foot wrong may be viewed as snobbery, but jokes well and truly aside … even those with questionable card counts must agree that last weekend’s antics are infuriating, disappointing and downright stupid.

Jersey’s footballing community (fans and coaches included) needs to calm down, and grow up.

The darkness arrived with the moonlight on Friday during the women’s Zenith Cup final between St Lawrence and Rozel Rovers, and continued into Saturday as players from Sporting Academics and St John had their Championship game abandoned following an on-field mêlée.

There could of course be more to the story than meets the eye, but either way the men (or in Friday’s case, young lad) with the whistle do not deserve to spend their free time acting as a sponge for physical and verbal abuse.

Sometimes they don’t help themselves – talking down their noses to players, serving only to wind them up further – but the referees in this instance cannot be blamed in any way.

The official for the Zenith showdown was only 16 years old, yet allegedly branded with de-grading names not suitable anywhere, let alone for print. He was also subjected to sarcasm and further expletives by supporters sitting in the Springfield stands as he left the field at full-time.

An experienced, thick-skinned ref may be better equipped to deal with such criticism (it’s still not acceptable), but aiming that at a teenager who is simply trying their best to keep Island football running? Really?

He would be excused for giving up the sport he clearly loves right here, right now. And where would that leave us?

Using a line from one referee referring to the Accies v St John battle: ‘If they behaved like that on the street they would be arrested. Why do they think it’s alright on a football field?’

Rugby players manage to vent their frustration without aiming it at the referee, and even go as far as calling them ‘Sir’, ‘Miss’ or ‘Ma’am’. I’m not suggesting the latter is necessary, but something must be done as we are losing football referees at a faster rate than we’re recruiting. They’re fed up, and teams are soon going to have to officiate their own games much more frequently.

Thankfully the Jersey FA appear to have begun an investigation and may well be forced to adopt a long-overdue, zero-tolerance attitude.

Bin the sin-bins, dish out straight red cards at the slightest whiff of dissent and impose lengthy bans for those undermining their own maturity, both on and off the field.

It wouldn’t take long for things to change for the better.

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