Standards of refereeing in India are so unbelievably poor that it may have shaped the decisive games in the league this season. The AIFF must address this to raise the quality of Indian Football.

In any top football league around the globe, good referees are an essential ingredient for its success. The standards of officiating can have a direct effect on the league. It therefore, becomes very important for the various football authorities to constantly monitor the performance of referees at different levels.

In Europe, in particular, stress is laid on the training and development of referees right from the grassroots level. At the same time, however, the road to becoming a top level official in the region is not quite easy. In England, referees are categorized into 9 active levels, with trainees being part of the ninth level. It, thus, takes a lot of years for a referee, aspiring to officiate international games, to fulfill his aspirations.

Despite this, the financial rewards involved in it makes a career in refereeing very lucrative in the European continent. It isnai??i??t a coincidence then, that over the past few years, top European referees have been a regular feature in important international football tournaments.

Quick Reality Check

In stark contrast to their European counterparts, a referee officiating a national level game in India, earns merely around a couple of thousand rupees per game. It is perhaps because of this financial aspect that very few football enthusiasts in the country feel encouraged to tread into the field of officiating.

To make it worse, there is a dearth of top quality referees in the country, as has been observed over the course of the past few seasons, during which, the performance of Indian referees can barely be described as average.

Impact On The League

This season itself, poor officiating has cost many top division clubs some valuable points. One of these clubs, Shillong-based Shillong Lajong FC, have been at the wrong end of dreadful officiating on quite a few occasions. In their home game against champions-elect Dempo, a dubious penalty decision in favour of the latter earned the Goans a priceless 2-1 victory. In their next game against former champions Churchill Brothers, Lajong were once again pegged down by a few controversial decisions.

However, the game that will be most remembered for refereeing errors this season, is the first leg of the massive Kolkata derby between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Bagan profited from a wrongly awarded penalty, which their star frontman Odafa Okolie duly dispatched. On the other hand, referee Pratap Singh, one of the best officials in the country at present, twice turned down two legitimate penalty appeals from East Bengal. The green and maroons eventually won 1-0, with the game ending in a farcical fashion as the lights went off at the Salt Lake Stadium.

Pratap Singh – Under the Scanner after the Kolkata Derby

Ai??Had East Bengal won that derby against Bagan, and Dempo been held against Lajong, would the I-league title race have been closer? Perhaps, yes. However, considering the fact that East Bengal and Dempo have both gained and suffered from poor refereeing on quite a few occasions this season, a couple of games wouldnai??i??t have made a significant difference to their current standings. It is a very common saying that ‘these things average out through the season’, but rarely has a person quantified this by keeping track of incidents throughout the season.

That being said, the authorities of the game in the country, AIFF and the state associations across the nation, cannot run away from the blame being directed their way by various quarters for the incompetence of Indian referees. Unlike in England and most of the other European countries, Indian authorities have rarely laid any stress on professionalism in refereeing. The AIFF have been pretty late in realizing the importance of bringing in separate people for performing the roles of linesmen.

Moreover, the Indian league structure isnai??i??t as professional as compared to most of the other football leagues around the world, with the second division being played over two stages within a couple of months. This amateur league structure doesnai??i??t allow the step-wise development of a match official, which ultimately hampers his professional growth. Sadly, there is still a long way to go before the Indian league structure can be strengthened. Again, as mentioned earlier, a career in refereeing in India isnai??i??t a financially appealing profession. These factors have, over the years, ensured that football officiating in the country hover around mediocrity.

The Plan

There is still hope though. With the I-league starting to grow in popularity among the Indian football fans, the demand for more competent officials has arisen. Keeping this rising demand in mind, the AIFF launched the ai???Project Future India refereesai??i?? course this year.

Project ‘Future India referees’ Meet in Delhi Last year

Under this initiative, the best referees at the beginning of their careers from all over the country, duly nominated by their states, are to be called in for selection. Thereafter, a selection panel shall choose the best 30 referees among them, who will then be trained under the guidance of dedicated Referees Instructors and Fitness Instructors for two years and would undergo three-four training exposures per year. Referees who show potential for growth after each exposure shall be retained and called for the next exposures.

After two years, the best of the lot would be further nurtured through this top level development project for the next two years. The main aim of this first ever continuous project on training and development of referees in the country is to produce as many world class referees from India by 2016.

This programme in itself may not be enough to lift the standards of officiating in India in the immediate future; however, if similar initiatives are taken by the state associations throughout the country, one surely wonai??i??t be mistaken to expect a better future for the men in the middle.

Ai??—-

Written byAi??Bhargab Sarmah

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4 Responses to “Indian Football: AIFF Must Improve I-League Refereeing Standards”

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  1. Jayesh says:

    Hmm…. how about the possibility that it’s not poor refereeing but actual match-fixing?

  2. robert says:

    agree with Jayesh , when referees are paid so poorly, it is very easy to “convince” them to give certain decisions.
    Look at the proportion of penalties given to Dempo & Bagan compared to other teams !

  3. Rahul Saxena says:

    Actualy better refereing forcer better playing habbits on players that benifits them when they play international games under high quality referees, and motivates team to practice harder as they are more assured of fair decisions. Hence better refereeing indirectly improves the standard of the game.

  4. Robin says:

    Mr. Bhargab Sarmah, Please try to present neutral outlook when you are wearing your reporter hat. You seem to have only noticed the supposed “injustice” delivered to your beloved team East Bengal. Where were you when Tolgey’s handball in the box was overlooked in the derby? Where were you when Mahesh Gawli deliberately handled the ball heading towards the goal during the 2nd leg Bagan-Dempo match? Where were you during the last to last Fed Cup final when your beloved Dinesh Nair (surprisingly missing from your article) single handedly made East Bengal the champion? Please dont try to say that because East Bengal supposedly suffered the standard of referring is poor. Try to paint the actual picture where every team (except probably Dempo to a large extent) is suffering from very poor standard of referring.