Chimy Ávila is sent-off. / EFE

Why are referees being lynched online?

Refereeing decisions shouldn't be questioned by clubs, and even less so on their social media pages, where officials are being unfairly scrutinised

Rob Palmer
ROB PALMER

There's a dangerous trend developing in La Liga. Even if the manager selects the wrong team, the star player misses a penalty or the goalkeeper juggles one into the net, clubs are instructing their fresh out of college social media kid to "blame the referee".

The Twitter feeds of Valencia, Real Sociedad and Real Betis have all lowered their reputation by making unsavoury remarks about the whistle-blowers in recent weeks. The tweets have backfired and made the clubs look cheap and, quite frankly, stupid.

Real Sociedad blamed officialdom for failing to win against Alavés: "Such decisions cost us points," they posted.

Valencia were subtle by comparing their defeat in Madrid to the Netflix show Money Heist. They likened it to a bank raid in the capital: "Robbery in Madrid is beginning to be somewhat repetitive."

Real Betis took it to a whole new level - a very low level. "The job of the referee is to be fair and just, not the disgrace we have seen today. What we've seen today is incomprehensible." What is truly incomprehensible is the clubs allowing this nonsense to appear on official pages.

I'll hold my hands up! In my early commentating career, I finished a match by saying: "There is referee, Paul Harrison, who had a complete nightmare." He had given an indirect free-kick instead of a penalty, booked the wrong player, and generally lost control of a local derby.

The head of English referees, the legendary Neil Midgely wrote to my boss, asking: "Who does this young commentator think he is? What qualifies him to make such remarks."

Stung by the criticism, I signed up for a six-week course to qualify as a referee and passed with 95%. My examiner was an up-and-coming young referee called Mike Dean, who went onto much greater things.

I learned that it's the "Laws of the Game" and "Rules of Competition" and just how difficult it was to progress from parks' pitches to the professional game. So many decisions come down to interpretation of the "laws" and no decision is black and white. Referees make incorrect calls, but they are always human and make mistakes.

Now I place myself in the ref's position and understand why he came to his snap conclusion. In the Barcelona game at Granada last weekend, I thought Piqué should have been sent off. I reasoned that the referee's subconscious had kicked in after dismissing Gavi minutes earlier. Would he be known as the man who reduced the mighty Barcelona to nine players when we do a search on his name? Did he want his name in the headlines for dismissing a player who divided national opinion? No is the answer and avoided a tough call.

If I disagree, you'll hear me say: "In his opinion..." After my course I wrote back to Mr. Midgley to say: "I'm now qualified to comment on the ref. In my opinion, I was right, he did have a nightmare!"