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JUNE 20, 2006
Castle Von Rant
Rantsburg

Greetings footie fans!

Well the tournament is in full swing and teams are getting ready to go home.

You know how I know? The referees are getting absolutely hammered by anyone and everyone.

Over the last few days the line has been rolled out that the smaller nations are getting a rough deal to keep the big teams winning so all their various mega-bucks sponsorship agreements continue to tick over and it keeps everyone at the upper end of management well fed for the next four years.

The theory goes along the lines of that referees met a man in a darkened car park who took a drag on a cigarette and told them to ‘follow the money and keep the big sides in’.

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The people’s champion in all of this has suddenly become Australia’s Harry Kewell.

After his side was on the wrong end of a 25-9 foul count he decided to let German referee Markus Merk know exactly what he thought of him and his decisions.

Suddenly, there is talk of a revolution.

"Harry's right!" They’re all saying, "We knew it all along!"

There is of course a delightful irony in Liverpool’s Kewell being the focal point of the fair play debate. At Liverpool he has been responsible for some of the worst acts of diving known to man, a number of times against lower league opposition in various cup competitions.

When facing his accusers he has often explained with a straight face “it’s just part of the game”. Suddenly he doesn’t like that game, and I for one will be watching his next season with interest.

But I digress.

Has the Bilderberg Group really all decided that only the big ticket teams get through?

Are the referees the foot soldiers of a global conspiracy started by footwear companies to make us believe that their sponsored teams are really the best in the world?

There are a couple of things that do need to be mentioned in order to balance the debate.

Remember in all of this that no one ever cheered for Goliath.

There is no doubt that ‘weaker’ teams when faced with a technically superior opponent often try to, for want of a better phrase, ‘kick them off the park’. It’s a tactic as old as the game itself.

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They also defend well back in an effort to nullify their opponent’s attack. This also gets you into trouble because when you give away free kicks the well heeled opponent is within shooting range.

No one blows up about fouls down the park because they don’t tend to mean anything, but when it gives a dead ball specialist a chance to whip one in it becomes a problem.

There is no doubt that the biggest problem with the modern game is “simulation”, a phrase itself that brings up terrible mental images.

But I won’t have anyone telling me that only the big teams do it, they all do it and they should get booked, fined or whatever.

I think there is a case for saying that some big stars can get a good run, but most of these referees put up with them week in week out, it is not some star struck teenager with the whistle.

The guy in the middle has millionaires trying to con him every week, this is nothing new. I’ll be the first to demand a referee be hung, drawn and quartered, but so far I think they’ve done a pretty good job.

The Baron

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