Spain’s soccer coaches have had enough. Since the beginning of the season seven have been ordered to the stands by match referees in what many believe is a persecution. “It seems as though somebody didn’t notice that Franco is dead,” said Miroslav Dukic of Valladolid after receiving his marching orders.
“We’re under a dictatorship,” added Rayo’s Paco Jémez after he too was shown the red card.
So far this year, in just nine rounds of matches, the same number of coaches have been ordered from the dugout as in the whole of last season. In 2010-11 the number of sendings off was also seven. The reason is always the same: protesting against refereeing decisions “angrily,” “blatantly,” or “in a repeated manner.”
“A referee doesn’t expel someone for one comment, but when the fourth official has advised him three or four times of the coach’s protest,” said a member of the Technical Committee of Referees when the body received a request for talks over the situation. He argues that referees are merely applying circular number 3, which was drawn up at a course in Santander before the season started. The circular also highlights the need to watch for elbows when players contest an aerial ball and maintain the 10-yard distance of a defensive wall. “The problem is that coaches don’t read these circulars, and the clubs don’t pass them on,” says a referee. “It’s easy to talk afterward about a dictatorship.”
“We are not persecuting anybody,” adds Sánchez Arminio, president of the committee.
The stance of the coaches is diametrically opposed. “There is a directive from above that anyone who complains must be sent off,” said Dukic last Monday.
“What they need to do is pay attention to what’s happening on the field. What happens outside the pitch is not as important and has no effect on the game,” noted Jémez, who is appealing against his sending off in the match against Barcelona. Footage of the incident shows that the fourth official told Jémez he had not been sent off, but merely yellow-carded by Miguel Ángel Pérez Lasa. “The respect that referees ask for needs to be earned.”
The referees, meanwhile, are fighting back against the torrents of abuse they receive from fans, coaches, substitutes and assistants: they believe these sanctions will serve to calm the occupants of benches across the division, whatever their function. In Europe, Uefa’s no-nonsense approach to protests has led to coaches biting their tongues and sitting on their hands. Before the European Championships, coaches were warned by Pierluigi Collina, the most respected man in black in the world game, that their behavior had to be exemplary.
However, the disciplinary committee also needs to be more consistent. Last season Real Madrid’s Pepe received a two-match ban for calling referee Paradas Romero a “son of a whore.” His teammate Fabio Coentrão received a four-game ban this year for a similar insult against Pérez Lasa.
The president of the coaches association, Eduardo Caturla, transmitted the trainers’ complaints to the referees committee. The response was unequivocal: behave, or get sent off.