The (dis) Respect campaign is proving to be the FA’s biggest success

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After fears about the potential outbreak of ‘respect’ throughout Britain, a Premiership Manager’s Press Kit has been launched this week to try and maintain the high level of match officials who leave the game each year.

Premiership Manager’s Press Kit
Instructions: Use as many times as necessary to explain your team’s shortcomings and to avoid more difficult questions about your team’s ability to kill of the opposition earlier in the game.

If a key decision made by the referee has not gone in your favour, use one of the responses below:
· “Its hard to show ‘respect’ when the referee performs so badly”
· “The referee got the big decisions wrong today”
· “I think the crowd gave that decision”

If you have benefited from one of these key decisions, use one of the responses below:
· “It’s about time we had some luck”
· “We had a similar decision given against us last week”
· “I didn’t see it”

Do not, under any circumstances, praise the referee. If a correct decision has been made then it is only because, although you have never controlled a Premier League game in front of thousands, with managers and the press ready to lambaste you and your every decision scrutinized by cameras in every corner of the ground, you know that it is in fact a very easy job.

Managers seem to have completely misunderstood the Respect campaign. When they signed up to the FA-led initiative at the start of the season they entered into a code of conduct, detailing how they will show respect to others involved in the game, display and promote high standards of behaviour, always respect the match officials’ decisions and never engage in public criticism of the match officials. You don’t see much of that on Match of the Day on a Saturday night.

What we actually see is Respect, if the manager’s team has won. After losing 3-0 to Man City last week, Arsene Wenger was adamant Johan Djourou’s challenge on Daniel Sturridge should not have been a penalty, yet after beating Chelsea 2-1 at the weekend and watching Robin van Persie score from what was quite clearly an offside decision, he declared, ‘It was impossible to see from the bench… this time it went for us.’ It is impossible for the referees to win because they have to please two opposing sides. One week Wenger won’t see it, the next he’s calling for the referee’s blood.

Luiz Felipe Scolari has been a shining reflection of the Respect campaign’s code of conduct, but now he wants a public apology from referee Mike Dean for that decision. Can you imagine what would happen if one team managed to pressurise a public apology from a referee for one decision? It would be demanded every week.

Scolari later said, ‘The players are wrong when they make a mistake in front of goal… but the referee is never wrong’. How wrong you are, Mr Scolari. As every manager in the Premiership has shown us, the referee is always wrong and the players are always right. We expect the referee to never make a mistake, or at least never get the ‘big’ decisions wrong, as if he stores up some additional ability to make correct decisions and only unleashes it when he makes that snap judgement that a big decision is coming.

Mike Dean’s decision at Stamford Bridge was a game-changing one, but what if we levelled the same criticism at players for such game-changing moments? Avram Grant would have thanked John Terry for throwing away the Champions League Final and losing him his job, Steve Bruce would have claimed Titus Bramble isn’t fit to play in the South Lancashire Counties League and Rafa Benitez would have labelled Robbie Keane a waste of £20m and demanded a public apology from the Irishman.

In order to follow the Respect campaign, managers will need to be realists. They need to understand that not only is the referee’s job an incredibly difficult one, but that at least one party will always be unhappy with his decision, because it is just that, his. All decisions involve some kind of judgement, and because judgement is subjective, so are all decisions.

The day managers demand a perfect game from all of their players is the day they can demand the same from a referee.

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