Refs Gone Wild

The accountability of a Referee

It’s well known to any soccer aficionado that the central referee has all the power.

  • They make the calls, or choose not to make calls
  • They issue disciplinary action
  • They decide whether or not to accept their assistant referees’ calls.

It is not an easy job, there’s no disputing that. They have to be in excellent physical condition running the whole of the pitch for 90 plus and it’s a thankless job to say the least when they get it right.

But what about when they get it wrong?

At a recent game I attended I witnessed some very bad calls and it got me thinking, are the refs being held accountable and to what extent?

The Houston Dynamo faced FC Dallas Saturday, April 5 at BBVA Compass Stadium, a rivalry as big as the state of Texas. Ask any Dynamo fan and they’ll happily give you the low down on the big D. A long standing rivalry, they play for pride and a cannon named El Capitan. The Dynamo at one point even commissioning a billboard sign just inside Dallas city limits with a picture of the MLS cup with the phrase: Houston, 2 times better than Dallas.

The 1st official or main referee was Ricardo Salazar a referee known for causing controversy on a good day and downright altering the outcome of games in other instances. During the August U.S. Open cup final where Sporting Kansas City faced The Seattle Sounders, he handed out 6 yellow cards and one red card to Seattle and didn’t issue a single card to KC for what were widely viewed as similar and possibly worse fouls committed by Sporting KC. There is even an imitation twitter page that was started called @RedCardoSalazar to parody Referee Salazar for his love of wrongful Red Cards.

The game had just begun and the opposing team had control of the ball. After a great pass to the opposing forward, who was preparing to take a shot, a defender made an amazing sliding tackle winning the ball in the opposing box that brought me and the rest of the crowd to our feet. He managed to pass the ball to the on rushing midfielder while still on the ground who crossed the ball to a waiting forward. After beating the keeper who came out too early, the only thing standing between him and the goal was a single defender. The opposing defender came to challenge him and after having the ball skillfully touched past him, the defender with few options, horse collared the forward taking him to the ground.

During what would normally be considered a last man foul that by the letter of the law results in an immediate red card dismissal, the defender kicked the forward in the head while he was still on the ground. It wasn’t clear whether or not the kick was intentional but intent aside blood was spilled and the training staff had to enter the field to attend to the injured player.

As the medical staff addressed the bloody and disheveled forward, the crowd including myself waited for disciplinary decision from the ref. He didn’t bother consulting his assistant as both teams were crowded around him, no doubt pleading their cases.