But sometimes a referee isn’t just guilty of getting the split second decisions wrong, he is guilty of getting the obvious, in your face, right in front of you decision wrong. And the result is absolutely disastrous. Mr Fitch, the official in charge at Witham today, fell squarely into this second category. The game was abandoned not because one player head-butted another, not because one fan hurled abuse at some opposing players, not because it all went off in the tunnel… no. The game was abandoned because Mr Fitch never, ever got a hold of it and let the players know that he was the boss, he was in charge and he could be relied upon to make the right decisions.
From just after the game kicked off we could see obvious decisions going the wrong way, for both teams. The assistant referees contributed nothing and simply pointed their flags the way the ref told them to. Canvey forwards were being hustled off the ball, dragged to the ground and generally manhandled but the man in black saw none of it. But when Colin Wall was head-butted everyone in the ground saw it. In fact, to his credit, Mr Fitch saw it. Players started to lump into each other and the three officials tried to break things up. Ugly, but it happens. What we then saw was the referee give yellow cards to all and sundry but, unbelievably, no red card to anybody.
How can head-butting an opponent be a yellow card offence? Either the ref didn’t see it and no foul is given or he did and the red card is given automatically. Even the Witham fans I spoke to had to agree. This was the point where the ref completely lost any respect or control. From here on in it was going to be a free for all. Luckily, the half-time whistle went and the players all made a bee-line for the tunnel. What an ugly sight! Players fighting, fans fighting and even officials of WTFC getting stuck in.
We waited for the second half to start, all of us swapping stories and anecdotes about what we had just witnessed and then we were told that the referee had abandoned the game. Then we were told that he was reconsidering. Then we were told it was off again. Typical, the man’s middle name must be Procrastination. He couldn’t even get this decision right without having umpteen attempts at it.
So we left the ground just as the police started to arrive. No mention of a refund on admission charge, no mention about whether the result would stand and, most importantly, no mention about why this man is still on the referees list.