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Refs’ red cards gives football another black eye

It's unusual for football referees to be banned, and even more so when those referees happen to be female considering they make up a small percentage of the match official pool.

But that's what happened when lineswoman Wendy Woodley and her daughter Precious Smith were suspended this month.

Smith happened to be running the line on the other side of the pitch when September's First Division game between Hamilton Parish and Devonshire Colts was abandoned.

It's not a good advertisement for the sport and certainly doesn't help one of the biggest problems Bermuda Football Association face every year — a shortage of match officials.

Now, temporarily, two more will be missing — Woodley for four matches and Smith for six.

Both have also been placed on probation, presumably meaning much longer bans will be imposed in the event they are involved in more skirmishes.

It seems it was more than a skirmish that led to the current suspensions.

Those either playing or watching described it as absolute chaos.

That description might not be shared by Parish player Anthony Smith who's been banned for the rest of the season for his part in the bust-up.

He was found guilty of assaulting an official — either Woodley or Precious Smith.

Two others have also been banned, Kia Darrell and Ian Coke, for assault — Darrell for six matches and Coke for four.

But Woodley was also found guilty of assault as well as using foul language. And her daughter was found guilty of assault.

One has to assume that the players' assault was deemed more serious than the two officials. Or was it because they acted in an unladylike manner and the threat of their actions were considered less dangerous?

That said, lineswoman Smith reportedly was waving her flag at players in a manner that might have deemed it an offensive weapon.

Whatever the case, the incident shoots down the theory that these type of offences are a reflection of the social problems which blight Bermuda.

This was purely a case of either the players or the lineswoman didn't know the rules.

And on the surface of it, it seems Woodley was the culprit and the situation escalated when she refused a player more space to take a corner.

Even when the referee indicated she should move to one side, she refused to budge — that's the account given by many who were watching the game.

It all could have been avoided had Woodley adhered to the rules. And it might have been avoided if more referees could be recruited, get the necessary training and qualifications, and give the BFA more choices when they assign officials.

This lack of match refs continues to impact heavily on the sport in Bermuda.

This season, Premier matches are spread out on Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sunday, avoiding a full slate of games on Sunday as was the case a few years ago.

The reason for this change? There simply aren't enough refs to go around on a single day.

Football this season, particularly in the Premier Division, has provided plenty of entertainment. A glut of goals and very few red cards — the way the game should be played.

Southampton Rangers are at the top of the table, where nobody expected them to be at this stage of the season, and favourites Dandy Town and North Village know they won't have it their own way.

It's a shame that the suspensions handed out this week have made the media headlines and taken some of the glitter off the closely-contested games in the league.

Football needs all the help it can get to entice more spectators which in turn might entice more officials.

This latest fracas — at of all places Police Field — takes the game down another notch.

* * * *

Three weeks have passed since the Throne Speech during which Government declared their intention to build a statue in honour of boxer Clarence Hill who remains Bermuda's only Olympic medallist.

They never contacted Hill to ask whether he would be in favour of a statue.

And now, disgracefully, three weeks later week they still haven't contacted him, despite the furore caused by the plan to erect this monument.

The general consensus is that a gym, named after Hill, would be a far better way to recognise him and of course give Bermuda a facility that could be used by hundreds of youngsters.

Hill walked into The Royal Gazette offices this week, complaining he was still completely in the dark.

He has his own thoughts how Government could help him. And a statue isn't one of them.

But neither the Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney nor anyone in his Government has had the courtesy to get in touch.

Doesn't that add credence to the opinion that this was just another ploy to garner more votes?

— ADRIAN ROBSON

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Published November 23, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated November 23, 2012 at 12:48 am)

Refs’ red cards gives football another black eye

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