A provocative statement that needs a good justification in order to be accepted.
First of all, repeat that the referee has a very high, in principle too high responsibility. Decisions have to be made at the moment and cannot be taken back (the fact that there have recently been a few examples of a different kind does not contradict this but rather supports the thesis; one is somehow in search of alternative solutions, namely recognising this problem without being able to articulate it; nevertheless, until today the general rule is still: one whistle – and the decision has to stand). This makes each one highly critical, especially since the whistle blowers are told time and again that many, many fates depend on it, at least on the final outcome of a match, a championship, a competition.
The effect of this problem is primarily that there is a reluctance to award a penalty or to let a borderline offside pass as regular. The consequences called: a resulting proven irregular goal has far-reaching consequences, the reverse decision to stop an action which could have resulted in a goal only insignificant, as a side note. “It was actually not offside, he was mistaken” and “it was actually a penalty kick, he assessed it differently, also difficult to recognise from his perspective” and that’s it.
But these are the decisive scenes for football. The defence is to be undermined with the vertical ball, perfection on both sides, the defence and the attack, so high that it is always tight, always borderline, whether offside or not.
The striker, in the penalty area on the ball, on a cross in a promising position, past the opponent or on his way into the free space in front of the cross: every slightest obstruction could have a decisive detrimental effect on the likelihood of scoring a goal. The brief tug or pull on the jersey or trousers on the way down, the little shove at the moment of the header, all these are situations in which it would actually be borderline whether it was a foul or not, but the striker, here and there only in the defending position, comes off unfavourably. Either it is supposed to be him who has fouled, while in the worst case, from his point of view, it would only be both of them who had not quite followed the rules, while, conversely, only in the case of absolutely indisputable fouls on him and only on him, and often only on the second of this type, is he finally awarded the penalty kick.
So you watch a game in which it becomes almost impossible for goals to be scored at all. The closer to the goal, the more concessions to the defenders who “only wanted to prevent a goal, that must be allowed”? Now, such things have already been explained in one way or another. Here, however, another effect should be mentioned that finally puts a stop to a goal festival.
A more patient set-up for this: the referees sense very precisely which are the critical decisions. They intuitively do not want to give a penalty without knowing exactly why (although it is easy to understand, as explained above). They would already know that it was almost more than borderline there, but they think they can get away without a penalty kick in this scene as well. An offside decision also remains a critical one. Here, however, the reflex on the sidelines is usually, in the next very close situation: “Wow, he’s free. You’d better raise the flag.”
Now comes the decisive thought: the referee does not want to expose himself to precisely these critical situations in the first place, if he can somehow avoid it. So he will preferentially look for a fly in the ointment somewhere already when an attack is developing. At the moment when play is interrupted before the ball even enters the dangerous zone, a few question marks may appear here and there on the faces of all those involved, but that is as far as it goes. There was something, we don’t know exactly what, but it wasn’t a goal-scoring opportunity that we were robbed of. Some insignificant shake, some holding, pulling, pushing, shoving, whatever it may have been: it will be justified – as the reporter then simply passes over it – and no further consequences are to be expected, especially no concessions in the referee’s assessment. The action is forgotten at the same moment as the game is resumed. Was something or wasn’t something – it doesn’t matter.
However, the referee takes this good chance increasingly often, presumably without himself knowing exactly why. He follows his intuition, which advises him to make critical decisions as rarely as possible. He has long since noticed, however, that a goal situation in the making is never given the label “critical”. Always blow the whistle beforehand. Everything will be fine.
The blatant slight reproach made at this point can of course only provoke indignation. At the same time, of course, it would first require some evidence to even get a breeding ground. However, the cases have been noticeably accumulating recently in which these seemingly so insignificant little whistles have interrupted an attack in its making that once you get the idea, you can hardly get past it. A random example would be this: a corner sails into the penalty area. Before you even knew whether striker or defender would reach it, the whistle sounds. What the man might have seen? In principle, no one cares. Will any attacking player have touched a defender? That is out of the question. Whether it was against the rules or not, even more so the question of whether it was more against the rules than the defender? Who checks that? The situation is over, a whistle, but not a critical one.
No ball in the penalty area, no critical scene, no mistake by the referee. But also: no joy in goal scenes or in goals. Just blow the whistle – and continue with the text.
Now that one has possibly become familiar with this idea and recognises a certain system behind it, it is quite easy to accept the suggestion for improvement. In this case of hasty referee whistles stopping critical actions, it sounds analogous to all the others : thinking per goal action should take hold. Everyone wants to see the goal action. The fans neutralise themselves, so they don’t play a role. “Everyone” is therefore every friend of the game of football. Only this number is still open upwards. In other words: the number of friends of football could easily be increased, especially with the rethinking process advocated and proposed here.