Problems with the man in the middle

MK Dons manager Karl Robinson watches from the away bench during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Milton Keynes Dons at the American Express Community Stadium, Brighton and Hove, England on 7 November 2015. Photo by Bennett Dean. PSI-1119-0038
MK Dons manager Karl Robinson watches from the away bench during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Milton Keynes Dons at the American Express Community Stadium, Brighton and Hove, England on 7 November 2015. Photo by Bennett Dean. PSI-1119-0038

It’s easy to blame the referee when things aren’t going right on the pitch.

Rightly or wrongly, he’s a man void of response, a willing scapegoat and the only man to walk in and out of any football ground in the country knowing he’ll be hated by both sets of fans.

It’s a losing battle from the start. Any decision will be spat at by which ever team it goes against, with abuse coming their direction from the terraces.

His only solace can come in the knowledge he’s made the right call, he’s upheld his own integrity by getting the big decisions correct and he’s willing to stand by them.

But what happens when one club feels hard done by, not just by one referee, but four or five during the course of 16 games?

Without fear of sitting on the fence - MK Dons have missed out on what should have been two clear cut penalties this season.

The first came against Leeds when Sol Bamba handled Dean Lewington’s free kick, the other on Saturday against Brighton when Lewis Dunk cleaned out Samir Carruthers.

Other incidents have come close, and have irked manager Karl Robinson just as much - decisions against Derby, Burnley and Birmingham too have prompted the manager to be apoplectic in the dugout, wondering just what his side have to do to get the infamous ‘rub of the green’ as is so often clichéd in football.

The toughest pill of all to swallow though is the inescapable sense of helplessness after a decision isn’t given. The game moves on faster than the word ‘REF?!’ escapes your lips and his attention is to the next incident.

Social media is awash with comments regarding the incident, with some willing to use it as an excuse for losing, while others wishing to wash their hands of it all, highlighting far greater issues with the side’s game than an incident 10 minutes into the second half.

Robinson would get a fine for refusing to speak to the media after a match, and he similarly could get a fine should he fully express what he really felt went wrong during the course of 90 minutes.

It’s a political minefield in a money-driven industry.

“It’s costing us millions upon millions to football clubs,” said Robinson.

“Someone from space could see those decisions, they were that obvious.

“Over the last 15 years, the media has become such a big part of the game. Sky and BBC don’t pay millions to get mutes on TV. We’re in an entertainment business.

“If I can come out and say we were rubbish, or say I was rubbish, why can’t I say the referee was rubbish? We have to have a level playing field.

“If I go at someone personally, or their integrity, that’s wrong.

“But I should be able to come out and say ‘that’s a terrible decision, something has to change.’

“We should be able to come out and speak the truth. And they should speak too. They want to be part of the industry too.

“If don’t speak to the media, I get fined. If I’m honest, I get fined for someone else’s misdemeanours.”

Ultimately though, it’s a dead argument. Nothing will change, nothing will come of it. Referees will continue to run, and potentially ruin Saturday afternoons up and down the country with little to no punishment.

Sometimes the beautiful game bears and ugly face.

>> For video clips of the incidents mentioned, see VIDEO: Dons decisions - you decide.