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Question Number: 31501

Law 5 - The Referee 4/30/2017

RE: 1st division Professional

John George of Belmopan, Belize asks...

Can a game be played over due to unfair officiating?

my first division team lost the game due to some totally bad calls by the referee even the fourth official said that some of the calls he made were really bad so before the end of the game I told the fourth official that I'm playing under protest because my boys were not able to play to there full potential due to the unfair officiating.. can the game be replayed?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi John
Games are never replayed because of poor decisions or officiating. It only happens if the referee makes an error in Law and matters of opinion such as a say fouls being called / not called are not protestable.
Now I have been around the game for a lifetime. I have played at a reasonably high level and also officiated at a decent level and I can safely say teams lose games not referees. When teams that I played on lost it was not because of the referee yet due to our poor play even when there was poor officiating. I was on the losing team of 2 National finals and some decisions did not go our way. That was not the reason we lost. We lost because we played poorly. The referee is just part of the game on the day which teams have to deal with the same as other outsiðe factors.
By all means make your concerns known to the referee assignor who is building up a picture of the ongoing performances of referees yet other than assigning the referee less challenging games or demotion after a series of poor observations there is nothing that can be done. Even at the highest level with video evidence the game results always stand unless there is an error in Law which is rare.
I recall last season an incident involving the award of a corner kick in an important league game that was disputed with 5 minutes to go. Anyway from the corner the opponents equalised. I was berated and harangued for the corner decision after the game and the reason the game was not won. No mention of the two one on ones with the goalkeeper that ended up in misses, no word of a kick from 6/7 yards that was blasted over the bar, nor anything about the poor defending by the unmarked player heading the goal at the corner. I made the call in good faith from what I saw. If the ball was cleared away and the game ended in a win there would have been little if any complaint about my performance.
So when things go wrong in a game, it is easy to search for a scapegoat i.e. somebody to blame so that a team does not have to accept responsibility for outcomes. Michael Johnson in his book Slaying the Dragon: How to Turn Your Small Steps to Great Feats he outlines his approach to things going wrong. He divides the things that went wrong into two categories – those which he can control or influence, and those over which he has no control or influence. He then throws away the list of things which he cannot control or influence and focuses solely on the things where he can affect change.
Johnson like many high performance athletes, coaches and players understands that there is little point in wasting time mulling over the things that cannot be changed. It is more beneficial to focus on what can be affected and to achieve better outcomes in the future.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi John,
A football match cannot be played over because of (as you describe it) some really bad calls. The Laws of the Game state that:

''The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.''

I agree with Ref McHugh that games are usually lost or won more because of the teams' performances than the referee's. I recently watched an interview with Sam Allardyce after his Crystal Palace team had lost to Burnley. Allardyce referred to a couple of refereeing decisions that had gone against them and which arguably might have been incorrect but pointed out that they didn't lose because of those decisions, they lost because (in his words) of the ''two goals we gave away and how easy it was for them to score.''

So even some top-level football managers seem to agree that a team's own performance usually has more to do with the result that anything the referee might do.

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