The Babel/Twitter debate

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few days you’ll probably be aware that Liverpool’s Ryan Babel has been charged with improper conduct by the FA after he posted a picture of referee Howard Webb wearing a Man Utd shirt on Twitter after Sunday’s FA Cup defeat at Old Trafford.

United had of course won the FA Cup tie 1-0 thanks largely to a soft-looking penalty awarded by Webb in the first minute and the game was further influenced by a refereeing decision when Liverpool were forced to play over half of the game with ten men following the red card awarded to Steven Gerrard for a two-footed lunge on Darren Fletcher (this decision wasn’t contentious at all).

Since being charged many, including the PFA, have suggested the charge is unfair and that the FA have perhaps over-reacted to the incident which has generally been regarded as “a bit of a joke”. However, are people not missing the bigger point here?

We have been talking about respect for referees for a long time in this country and whilst things are improving, the chuck away comments made by people such as Ryan Babel only continue to undermine the role they play and set a bad example to our young players. Indeed, things are much better as we no longer (or rarely) see instances such as that of 2000 when Manchester United players, lead by captain Roy Keane, reacted appallingly to a decision made by referee Andy D’Urso.

The FA’s RESPECT program is aiming to “address unacceptable behaviour on and off the pitch”, which includes behaviour towards referees and it’s clearly making huge strides forward. This is why I believe the FA needed to make a stance with Ryan Babel and why they need to take this stance with any other players who decides it’s funny to belittle a referee.

People such as the FA have worked hard to improve life for referees both at the top level and at a grassroots level and we need to keep working at this because without referees we have no game. There’s a clear shortage of referees at both the grassroots or lower-senior level in this country so we must continue to encourage people to become referees and those people must be confident that they can do so without fear of being bullied, and this starts at the top.


About Simon
Grassroots Football Coach

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