Thu | Feb 27, 2020

Laurie Foster | Respect the refs

Published:Wednesday | January 22, 2020 | 12:16 AM

The many years spent in writing for public consumption has taught many lessons.

One of the most compelling is the manner in which the minds and actions of a people are steered to a probable conclusion by what is read in the newspaper or, to a lesser extent, what is heard on the airwaves.

In trying to bring that elusive closure to a seemingly endless debate, so often does one hear the words, “Yes, it is true I saw it in the paper.” This is more so effective when the actual name of the most popular news outlet is named. This reality places a lot of burden on the players in the news media to send out their messages in a responsible and caring manner, even though it is meant to be a personal opinion. It should never be forgotten that others will be guided by it.

Having said all this, Foster’s Fairplay takes its mind back to one of the topical news items, which launched strident debates among sports people during the past week. The ever businesslike former FIFA referee, now turned assessor, Peter Prendergast, affectionately called, ‘Prendy,’ came out strongly against abusive comments targeted at match officials, coming from identified members of the watching public during local competition.

He waxed even more graphic and threatening when he said that the offenders would be “thrown out of the ground.” In interviews with press personnel after his broadside against these miscreants, Prendy pointed out that although the country’s laws spoke to specific sanctions for threats, his gripe to which the officials were being asked to respond were incidents where an official was being told what to do with members of his or her family. Although such slurs may have been ignored in the past, that would no longer be so.


Judging from the reaction to Prendy’s promise for the punitive action mentioned, there were mixed reactions to the announcement. The radio talk shows were kept buzzing as the hosts as well as callers were having a field day, sending out their responses to the new direction.

Foster’s Fairplay, having accepted Prendy’s comments as legitimate and needed to be said, was disappointed with the vast majority of the responders.

Their feeling was that the man who during his sojourn as the man with the whistle had been afforded the honour of being named to officiate in the middle at two separate stagings at the pinnacle of the sport, was overreacting. They were, in the opinion of this journalist, misguided in their view that the cuss-out to which Prendy was citing disgust was acceptable. They saw it to be a part of the beautiful game that was football.

That was, in the opinion of Foster’s Fairplay, bad but not too bad. What was believed to be most distasteful, should be disregarded and accorded red-card status, were the animated comments against Prendy by a particular host who has access to radio, television and the written press. His distorted view of the situation that irked Prendy and led to his promise of ejection of the abusers was that the slurs were a part of the “passion” that accompanies football and should not be ruled out of order. Is he serious?

To come to such an unfortunate decision, while recognising the ills that Prendy together with his officials are trying to address, is tantamount to an endorsement of the crass and vulgar behaviour which is a feature of so many aspects of public life.

It is what we, as a people, are forced to encounter on the highways and byways of this land in recent times. Such a buy-in to sheer slackness is indeed unfortunate, bearing in mind the popularity and, by extension, endorsement of the thoughts of this host make his reaction most unacceptable. Soon, one might hear, “There is nothing wrong with telling a match official to examine his relative’s anatomy; is so and so say it on radio last night.”

Is that which we as a sports-loving people want for our nation?

For feedback email: Laurie Foster is a veteran sports journalist.