Refereeing in the Eredivisie – should the Premier League follow their example?

Today, I am going to talk about referees, and in particular, referees in the Netherlands – in the Eredivisie. You all know how it works. Life as a ref is very tough, particularly in the Premier League. You can have a great game, spot every foul, every offside position, and then just give away a penalty that wasn’t one, or give a harsh red card, and everybody will blame the referee for the loss.

Referees are in fact an easy target, for both players and managers. When you lose a game but you want to avoid talking about, for instance, your team’s bad performance, what will you talk about? Normally the referee. You can always blame the referee for something in the game, because most referees will make at least an error a game. It can be small or big, but a referee rarely performs a perfect game. People consider referees as robots that can never make any errors. But you should never forget that a referee is just a human being, and that every human being makes errors.

But the referees aren’t helped by FIFA. How can you blame the referee for not awarding a goal when the ball just went a centimetre over the line at a very high speed? How can the human eye possibly catch it? We all know FIFA should help the referees more. But that’s not my point here.

Right now, I want to talk about the way refereeing mistakes are handled in the Premier League. For example, when a referee awards a red card that wasn’t a red card. Everybody is furious.

In the interviews after the game, you see the manager that blasts the referee, you see the players, very angry at the referee for the mistake, and you even see pundits, on Match of the Day for instance, who will watch the replays over and over and get to the same conclusion: the referee made a mistake, the referee was bad, the referee influenced the game.

You only see the “bad” side of the whole issue. You only hear people blaming the referee for the loss. And that’s where I like the Dutch system.

See, in the Netherlands, when a referee makes a mistake in a game, at the end of the game, he has the choice to come in the mixed zone and get interviewed too. So, after the game, you have the managers that talk, and then, the referee comes on. Changed, in his normal clothes, as a normal person, talking about his game. As an actor in a normal footballing game. As a real person, actually.

In this video, the referee explains that he didn’t have his eyes on Toivonen and didn’t see the error Toivonen committed before scoring. He admits the goal shouldn’t have been allowed, and talks about how ungrateful the refereeing job is, because people only remember that one mistake you make and judge your game on that error.

In this video, the same referee, Vink, explains that he should’ve awarded a penalty to Suarez because, after seeing the video, Suarez was definitely fouled. Then, he says that in another incident, he has seen the video, and he agrees with his own decision at the moment, that is wasn’t a penalty.

So, that’s the way it goes in the Netherlands. And to be fair: it makes a referee more human. Just as a manager or a player, he comes after the game and explains everything. Sometimes he admits his mistakes, sometimes he doesn’t, and stands by his decision. But, the main point is that he goes there. He talks, and he shows that he’s just a human being that can make mistakes from time to time.

And it helps. Honestly, there is a lot less discussion about referees in the Netherlands than in England, for instance.

In my opinion, the FA should look into these kind of methods, and look if they can change something in the Premier League. They should offer the chance for referees to at least explain their decisions, admit their errors, or not. It’s too easy to just put a loss on a single error from the referee. And having the man himself talking about the error he made at the end of the game takes away some of the bitterness about it. When you hear the referee admitting he made an error, it has a better effect than if you never hear them talk. And that’s what happens in the Premier League. The FA, it’s up to you.


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