Who’d be a referee?

It happens at least once a weekend. It has become as predictable as the tides of the sea. Each weekend in La Liga at least one referee gets it wrong. It has prompted Marca to have a column to deal with the situation. Ex-referees are called in to discuss where a former colleague got it wrong and try to explain it. Every time the referee or his assistants make a mistake, TV stations replay them over and over again. When it comes to mistakes involving Real Madrid or Barcelona, it even forms its own little subplot and name.

Alfredo Relano penned, or whatever the keyboard equivalent is, the infamous expression, Villarato. Angel Maria Villar Llona was elected as the President of the Spanish FA. Backing his candidacy was Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona, opposed was Real Madrid. He time as President has had its fair share of controversy. When he was first elected it was said that he was giving preferential treatment to Athletic, a former club. Then Barca were also said to be receiving favours.

Relano, current Editor of AS, started to write and used the term ‘Villarato’ every time a referee made a decision that went against Real Madrid or went in favour of Barcelona. Since then every time a decision, rightly or wrongly, doesn’t favour Real Madrid, fans start to fuel the conspiracy theory. Those who have an unbiased mind just put it down to poor refereeing and there has been a lot of that and it seems that as the weeks go by the worse it gets. If the mistake doesn’t appear in a game involving the top duo, or Atletico or Valencia then they tend to go unreported.

So we come to the latest incident of incompetence. On Wednesday night, in the Benito Villarmarin, Atletico Madrid beat Real Betis to move into second place but it was Alvarez Izquierdo, the referee, who would grab all the headlines. He sent off two players and made a catalogue of mistakes. Atletico deserved to win but even the staunchest Rojiblanco fan admitted that the victory was tainted.

“This man has showed his inability to officiate in the Primera Division. Referees like that cause a problem in regards to public order and repeated injustices generates repeated helplessness which can lead in turn to violence,” said Real Betis President Miguel Guillen. In a bar in Madrid, one Betico screamed that he wouldn’t allow Izquierdo to be a lollipop man as he won’t be able to say when it was safe for his kids to cross the road. Pepe Mel held his tongue as he spoke about the poor decisions. Even Simeone said that he could understand how the Betis fans felt.

There are those who say that the referee may actually be the victim. An ex-Real Madrid player, who has asked to remain unnamed, believes that the referees fail to get the support they deserve. He says that the rulebook has a lot of grey areas and the Spanish FA offers no support to referees and never publicly defends them. When it comes to mistakes, the refs stand-alone. So many rules are open to interpretation and each individual has their own understanding.

An example of such a stance arose last year when it was said that a new rule had been introduced that said a handball, accidental or not, was a yellow card. Some refs gave it, others didn’t. When Pep Guardiola was asked did he know anything about the new rule, he said he did not. Luis Garcia at Getafe said that as far as he knew the rule wasn’t new, it had always been that way. When the FA was asked for clarification they buried their heads in the sand. Referees were like rabbits in the headlights and just had to hope for the best.

This explains some of the errors but there are some, as Guillen said, not fit to be involved in a top-flight game. Fans accuse referees of trying to get their 15 minutes of fame, others say they get star struck but all say they are an embarrassment to the Spanish game. Unless the Spanish FA changes things around, the mistakes and errors will continue. Will they do that? Don’t hold your breath. As the saying goes, Spanish football – played by geniuses, run by idiots.