Massey officiated as a lineswoman in Sunday’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Chelsea under the authority of Howard Webb who refereed the game the Blues won 1-0.
Webb has officiated a number of high-profile clashes at the European Championship, the Champions League and Premier League and is regarded as the best official England currently has.
However, his handling of Rafael’s scuffle with David Luiz on Sunday was poorly mismanaged. Ordinarily Webb receives great praise and due respect for his ability to defuse problematic situations and potential flash-points within games with great discretion and control.
He is rarely ‘card-happy’ and usually uses common sense and tries to keep 22 players on the field, where possible.
On Sunday, however, this was not the case – Luiz’s blatant theatrics were perceived as genuine cause for concern and Rafael was dismissed in the 89th minute of the game for a relatively tame challenge on Luiz that barely even warranted a yellow card – a verbal warning would have been sufficient.
Massey, on the other hand, was in that game and has been throughout the season, exemplary – not only in her decision-making which I don’t believe has ever reasonably been called into question, but in her conduct and demeanor and the way she carries herself.
Massey has professionally been a schoolteacher and it’s an interesting comparison – she commands complete respect from professional footballers who, in fairness are very similar to children, and keeps her composure without fail.
Her decision-making is excellent – she operates at a high standard of accuracy and fairness but what impressed me most on Sunday was her ordering of Robin van Persie and Fernando Torres to ‘be careful’, calming down the players and maintaining complete control exactly like a school teacher would in a classroom.
In fact, initially in the incident that resulted in Rafael’s dismissal, Massey gave the player the benefit of the doubt – she didn’t flag or alert Webb immediately – she let the game flow until it became apparent that Rafael had been a little too aggressive and over-zealous in his challenge on Luiz and she must have observed that Rafael was frustrated by his team’s concession of the winning goal and was not in control of his temper.
Where Webb dismissed the right-back, I believe Massey would have verbally warned him. She was right next to the incident and didn’t flag until tempers flared.
Sian Massey should be appointed as a match referee in the Premier League next season – I see no reason not to. She is an excellent asset to the FA and should be given the very same opportunity that her male counterparts operating at the same level of consistency are.
I’d be very intrigued to see how the dynamic would alter with a female presence on the pitch – I would even go as far to suggest perhaps the players would behave themselves better and there would be a lot less crowding around and complaining at the referee if the referee was female, I believe.
If a male footballer was told to ‘go away’ or ‘get up’ as they often are by male referees, I suspect they would do as they’re told with much less huffing and puffing than they do presently if they were being ordered by woman.
I can see no reasonable argument against deploying female referees in men’s football – I shouldn’t imagine there would be any real physical danger to account for.
Referees are rarely physically attacked by players (at least not often in the Premier League) and I think it may in fact improve the game – there might be less ‘simulation’ and harassment of the referee on controversial decisions.
Whether the fans would (initially) react positively or negatively should be irrelevant to the debate – whatever cheers and abuse they throw at male referees, they would probably adapt to incorporate a female. I wouldn’t imagine it would bother someone like Sian Massey in the slightest.
image: © joncandy