Panto Season

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Despite Christmas being something of a dim and distant memory, it appears that players, coaches and spectators alike are wanting to keep the panto spirit alive.

Not sufficient to allow the players to deliver their set lines of: “knock on”; “not releasing”; “he’s offside”; or my favourite “that’s a penalty”.   Spectators like to get in on the act as well: “He’s behind you” seemed to be yesterdays chant.

Whilst a certain amount of commentary is expected, the tone and nature of it seems to be changing. No longer are referees seen as the stage manager of the show – ensuring that the match flows and is a fair contest. Instead it appears we are viewed as the stereotype Arch Villain of the piece.

Yesterday’s match was a classic example. Every decision made was received to boo’s and hisses.  Players lack of ability and skill was made out to be the responsibility of the referee (whom it was assumed has cast some sort of spell on these players as good arch villains are want to do).

With a tight contest, and a grand stand finish in the offing, the dissent began to reach a crescendo from the losing side.  A replacement player reviewed my final decision, for simple clear knock-on, with utter disdain. Despite a stern lecture the said player was not finished

With full time blown, match over and performance ended, all that remained where the traditional handshakes and congratulations / commiserations. Sadly no one had shared this part of the script with the replacement player, who decided to add an encore by becoming abusive.

Despite attempts to appease and provide an opportunity to back down and apologise, he failed to grasp the severity of his actions.

At this moment – with the losing captain and player standing in front of me, deriding my performance – the words of Stephen Sondheim came to my mind: “Send in the clowns”.  On cue [enter stage left] coach number one calls me a “disgrace”, amongst other babbled abuse…. [Enter stage right] Coach two jumps in to reprimand me for only playing 40 minutes in the second half…!

End result – Clowns 0 v Arch Villain 3

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