Ref elitism underlines Ovrebo witch hunt

by Sam Rider

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

After all the fuss has died down

A special place is reserved for people like Tom Henning Ovrebo. Just like Anders Frisk, Graham Poll, Robert Mugabe, and Osama Bin Laden before him, Tom has achieved household name status and established himself on Interpol’s top ten most wanted overnight.

The witch hunt began to take shape in the Sky Sports studio last Wednesday night. Drogba set the precedent kicking and screaming and foaming at the mouth and the pundits continued in such vain. On the performance of the Norwegian, the ever impartial Jamie Redknapp (son of Harry Redknapp – brother-in-law of Frank Lampard Snr – daddy of Jnr – consequently making Jamie Lamp’s cousin and an obstinate Frank fanatic and Chelsea convert – still following?) had a lot to say. He launched into his tirade: “Why can’t we have the best Italian or Spanish… Hold on, we can’t have a Spanish one…” Did I mention how Jamie likes to give the audience the impression he has no clue what he’s saying?

Then you might have noticed him calling Andy Gray Andrew Gay…woops! Was that a little Freudian slip? Revealing some genuine insight amongst Jamie’s typically fumbling post match assertions? Surprised that there were hints of homoeroticism involving Jamie’s adopted paternal role model? Me neither.

If you can sift through all that, then well done! The point is: there’s some blatant elitist referee selection creeping into the Champions League. In this scenario of English v Spanish clash, only an Italian official would have been deemed to have sufficient capabilities, match experience and big game temperament to cope with the feisty semi final encounter.

Poor Tom Ovrebo’s abilities, eyesight, allegiances and all round personal character have been called into question by every quarter since his interesting take on officiating that night. The biggest question marks over his selection have focused on his lack of experience cultivated in the Norwegian league. Albeit, the Tippeligaen, catchy isn’t it, can hardly lay claim to presenting the biggest of big game clashes for ref’s to oversee – what when the Viking’s are taking on Odd Grenland and all the team’s just sound like fruity European beers – but his credentials should be enough to earn him a place amongst the refereeing elite.

The quality of football in Scandinavia should not detract from the role of the ref. They are still relied on to bound about with whistle in hand, cards at the ready, to keep players in check, administer deserving punishments and occasionally, at least last time I checked, award penalties. Then again, Ovrebo’s reluctance to point to the spot at the Bridge does notably discredit such an assumption.

So why was he selected? At the age of 41 the psychologist by trade has proven a shrewd professional. He has overseen semis in the Uefa Cup over the last two years and several big quarters in the Champs Lge such as Inter v Liverpool and Man United v Roma (he gave a pen to the Italians in that one). Earning the right to ref at European championships and even to be preselected for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa show he must be doing something right. Perhaps it is his fleeting similarities in appearance to the referee colossus Pierluigi Collina that earned him this honour. That is the only reason I can fathom in the sudden elevation of fellow slap’ed Howard Webb to top official in England. Bald is back for the men in black.

It appears that Ovrebo’s previous 15 years of refereeing was building up to that crucial semi final second leg and rightly so. Ok, so he had a shocker but he deserved to be the man in the middle on the basis of his experience. One thing we could be more worried about is the increasing trend of English teams getting to the sharp end of this tournament will mean that no English refs will be allowed to oversee the biggest games and our standard of officiating will never get the opportunity to impress. Then again, last time our top man, Mr Poll, was put in the international limelight in the Euro championships for that Croatia v Australia game he forgot how to count so maybe that’s just a blessing in disguise.

Before we find ourselves in a position where no ref is good enough or Italian enough to ref these big games we should embrace the possibility for officials from the third world of league football to earn the right to oversee the games on the biggest stage. Until we have video technology, the rest is up to them and they will have to deal with any consequences…or go into hiding until it all blows over.
But let’s be honest, Chelsea should have sealed the tie long before Ovrebo lost his bottle and forgot what a penalty was, so perhaps they’ve only got themselves to blame. And next time, Abramovich should dig deeper into his gold lined pockets and offer a bribe more attractive to the Norwegian.

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  • Tef1on

    I’m glad i read this and assumed it wasnt another Chavski fan whining. I agree with your opinions that this ref WAS qualified and should have ref’d this game! For someone to say that he shouldn’t because he is from Norway is like saying Drogba shouldn’t play for an English team because he is from an African back water called the Ivory coast.

    Also has no one taken into account that free kicks are given too easily these days? To get a free kick in euro/Premiership football you have to fall over or trip over your own feet. He wasn’t having any of it! The fact he is getting death threats sums up the Chavski fans… idiots. The amount of times I have seen crap ref’s is unbelievable! I’ve had 1 this year that cost us a place in the final, He was dire and didn’t have a clue… The opposition manager even complained about him as he just gave them the game… but you don’t see us men giving threats… 2 beers later he was our best mate!

  • Darren

    totally agree, he was bad for both teams, and like you say, Barca didn’t complain or run around the pitch when their player was sent off.

    Look out for tomorrows excellent 10 reasons to hate Chelsea blog, its gonna be a classic!

  • Matt Quinn

    Only one penalty should have been given for for Chelsea. I dont think he had that bad a game…. it was just a difficult game to ref.

    Besides, the worst decision made in either Champions League semi final was the sending off of Darren Fletcher. And who was that decision made by??? An Italian ref! But then Redknapp Jnr doesnt think rationally when Fat Frank is playing.

  • Sam

    I like your style Tef1on – a couple of beers could bridge even the deepest of divides.

    If anything, the more upset the chavski players, as you so eloquently put it, got after each decision, the more reluctant the ref would have been to award one next time.

    Admittedly reffing shouldnt really work like that but as we all know even at school boy level – you’ve got to win over the ref from the beginning or he’ll be on your back the whole game. No point getting in his face and screaming obsenaties from the first whistle or you’re asking for trouble. In those terms the right team won on the day.

  • dexylongshot

    It all comes down to 1 person in the end. The ref. The pressure is huge and he can’t see everything, that’s why i’m in favour of technology.

    If the ref can’t decide because he didn’t see the tackle/foul/goal properly, It goes to a small panel of refs in a room on their jack with the Andy Gayesque Ferguson Videostar at their disposal. They can review the replays from different angles in slo-mo and give the ref their decision over the bluetooth. Each team can have something like 5 time they can question a decision.

    It happens in Tennis & Rugby and no one can have no complaints.
    Look at the last World Cup Rugby Final. England where given a nono on a certain try (from where i was sitting block z at the other end), but on closer expection, the panel got it spot on, no try (by a matter of millimeteres).
    No complaints, play on chaps.
    We would have only beat the Germans 3-2 in 66 but i’d take that to stop them moaning.
    It would only take a minute or two and when you look at how many minutes Drogba rolled around for, I’d hapilly stay the extra 10 minutes each game and walk out of the ground not feeling robbed because a ref didn’t see something properly.

  • Darren

    surely they must be able to come up with an iPod type of device that shows replys which only the ref can see?

    It does seem rather daft that all the billions in the game it all comes down to one bloke…

    Teflon is a hard man to please, look how good Bendtner was on Sunday, yet I bet he still hates him!

  • Sam

    I’m intrigued about this “10 things I hate about Chelsea” article you mention Darren…is this gonna be a regular feature on every club to keep it in good faith or are you laying down the law to chelsea fans and hoping there arent any regular boys from the Kings Road who are avid readers??

  • Tef1on

    Actually Darren… I agree he was class, I was more angry at Wengers choice not to play 2 of the big lads upfront when the Chavski back 2 are huge! He wants to play wingers, but no one is tall enough to challenge in the box. I’d give Bendtner an 8 /10 for his game on Sunday. By far one of the only players who didnt let the fans down (for once)

  • Darren

    thats actually a pretty good idea for a new column.

    Do u want to do one Sam? What club do u not like?

  • Tef1on

    Oh oh oh let me do Newcastle!!!

  • Sam

    Cud make quite a few enemies doing that…but from the top of my head…it would have to be the Scousers!! No suprises there.

  • Matt Quinn

    We cant have video replays… simply because there is no natural break in play in football. Imagine one team thinks they should have had a penalty but the ball doesnt go out of play– and then the other team starts to break down the field attacking. If it turns out it wasnt a penalty- then youve just punished the team who was counter-attacking.

    It would never work. The only time you should ever consider it, is goal-line technology. The linesman should be able to hear a bleep if a ball crosses the goal-line- and then a goal can be given.

    Thats all. Any other technology would ruin the game completely. Plus it would give pundits nothing to talk about! (actually- might be a good thing)

  • Darren

    all yours Teflon and Sam

    Good point Matt, it’s not like Rwugger, Rwugger, Ra, Ra, Ra.

    The only thing they should do is make sure the ref consults the linesman for every decision. Plus why are Refs always so old? They should younger and be able to keep up with play. Actually, what about Henry, he’d be great!

  • Martin Tibbetts

    In my eye the ref at the semi final made 2 very wrong decisions – the Pique one and the sending off. he also made an error in giving a free kick, in or out of the box, for the early foul on Malouda. He didn’t have a great game, but he wasn’t that bad. The only reason everybody is saying he was a disaster is because that fuckwit Andy Gray and his cronies said so on the night so vehemently..oh and a couple of seriel cheats in blue swore at him

    Bring in video technology and it will get worse – why? Because pundits don’t know the rules of the game, its that simple. I saw one, maybe Tyldesley, the other day say a penalty shouldn’t be given for a push because the player was on his way down anyway – ITS STILL A PUSH! Of course that player was representing a British team and the striker hitting the deck was not….

    the only people qualified to make the decisions are referees, and the only people who make a noise when they think they are wrong are the f@@king pundits. But the key here is the fact that very often you hear a penalty described as ‘debatable’. In that word lies the reaon why it can’t work. Decisions are not always black and white, its that simple, so they need to be left to the man in the middle with the help of his two linesmen. And let Gray and his cronies continue to earn their millions for being wrong most of the time….

  • Ash

    I noticed Redknapp say Andy Gay, made my night even better!

    Top article mate 🙂

  • RichardM

    This was the most incompetent referee I have ever seen – and that comes from someone who has see Mike Riley and David Elleray on quite a few occasions – so Ovrebo is up against some pretty stiff competition for that title.

    Chelsea denied a Final place and this whole eposode only served to devalue Barce’s victory, though I would think they couldn’t care less, as is natural. The point is the not about Chelsea fans complaining or others gloating, it’s about the whole refereeing system being outdated. This fiasco would not have occurred if there had been ref in the stands with video playback available. In the time it takes Ovrebo to panic and make his bad decisions, the “video ref” could have played the footage back and given a fair decision.

    The argument that this would slow the game down is without merit. The referee stops play all the time anyway, so he might as well be able to make the correct decision into the bargain instead of causing delay and adding insult to injury (sometimes literally) by penalising the wrong team.

    Also, while we’re at it, seeing as Drogba got so much criticism when he got too emotional and became abusive, let’s have microphones on the refs permanently. This would mean that no players can bully referees without their words being broadcast to the nation. And wouldn’t it be great to hear exactly what Alex Ferguson is whispering in their ears as he grabs them and walks down the tunnel with them EVERY half-time.

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