Singapore Premier League: A Reminder That Referees Are Only Humans

In Singapore Premier League, as elsewhere, there will inevitably be refereeing errors as long as fans are around.

The refereeing standard lies somewhere between Goal 2010 and Goal 2034 – not quite there yet. Typically Singapore football referees bestride a typical Singapore football scene. And however, fans, who for some reason never did incredibly wear the same shirts and collars as our referees. If fans do, at first blush, they look as though they had been heading for (Potong Pasir – time stamp @7:12) and alighted at (Damai – time stamp @1:41) by mistake. Nevertheless, referees still strut and whistle, running up and down the field, supposed masters and match controller: they are the umpires and lines in charge of the Singapore Premier League, circa 2018.

In no way, when you look deeper, these referees at centre field come to the matches with essential authority;

1. keeper of time (not that the digital clock is any worse),

2. score tracker (not that the scoreboard is a display of complex mathematical formulas which will reveal the score),

3. blow the whistle,

4. spray the can of lush white foam onto the field,

5. stretch hands into their pocket,

6. display cards (2 maximum) and

7. toss a coin (do we call them tosser?)

For Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the sinister referee of genius is NOT with the Singapore Premier League referees yet. But when they do (I honestly believe it will be before 2034), the shirts and collars of our referees will be just an outward show.

Referees, I put it to you that – Digital aids are in – personal authority is not.

Waiting to be waived flag

And authority is the more resounding theme of this footballing calendar. They have been there, unfavourably, through every Goal Project.

Sadly, were any real, local football fans ever approached before the Goal Project was promulgated? Was the views and opinions of these local football fans ever solicited? Was there even a survey done to coalesce the sentiments of the local football fraternity?

But yeah, maybe there was, and we were not aware of it.

Every match, in almost similar ways, the referees assembled will have the last word. Live television may unhinge their judgments, but their whistle calls and hand raising and finger-pointing have ruled vital. Referees decide how many players will finish a match, how goals are allowed and disallowed and when offside is onside and when onside is offside. Referees are the absolute dictator in the field for approximately 90 minutes or more. Plus-minus lah.

And that, for those moments, is where football technology rests – though Cyan Tongue suspects it won’t be long before technology steps into the Singapore Premier League. Referees might whistle for an offside 3 years after the offence, but a Virtual Assistant Referees (VAR) can spot a hair in an offside position. However, these men in recognisable black will not be out of jobs soon. And if referees can stop for a drinks break, then VAR could easily be here when the Singapore Premier League reaches 2034. This whole process of officiating and refereeing is changing almost Goal after Goal. Yet, the initiative to clear all fallible judgments from football has never manifested.

It is not a bad thing; some might say when you look at how VAR has helped teams. But still, there is one parallel that cannot be removed and one a question of semantics. What if we call referees – regulators? Because they regulate games? The referees in the Singapore Premier League have to enforce the game rules and hear football fans' expletives. Ok lah right?

After all, these referees are considered skilled professionals, and they have a team of supporting staff. Therefore, their standard should be consistent, right?

It is self-evident whether they are consistent or not. We may want technology to take over them and render perfect fairness, but these technology are no near perfect. So whether the marriage of human nature and technology will be a smooth one is something we have not taken into full consideration.

Referees are infinite variables. No way anyone can mould them for conformity.

Which is why, as the Cyan Tongue team watch the current Singapore Premier League season, we will hopefully accept the unpredictableness of the referees, okay?

Now blow the bloody whistle already!

Sleeping Whistle