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Referees; a modern day parable

By July 5, 2018 No Comments

How and when were referees introduced into sport?

The earliest form of games and sports emerged from a natural, Darwinian sense of competitiveness. Two or more individuals or teams, pitted up against one another in a battle of strength, skill and wit.

The games based were run on trust, the adjudication as to the fairness of a particular play or a move was left in the hands of the players themselves, “ …there was an assumption that a gentleman would never deliberately commit a foul.” [i]

But as sport become more popular, a corresponding rising of the stakes ensued. Initially there was only the prestige heaped upon by the deserving victor by lavishing fans. But eventually the financial windfall that accompanied victory overshadowed and outweighed that honour. With the stakes being as high as they were, could anyone afford to lose?

Soon people started doubting the integrity and honesty of their opponents; “was it really out?” The risk of losing and the associated shame it brought, made cheating not only a viable option, but at time as rational one. No one could be trusted, no one was honest.

In an attempt to bring back integrity to sport; organisers introduced a system whereby a neutral third party would act as a judge. His role was to manage and rule out any foul-play by maintaining his objectivity and neutrality. Thus was ushered in the industry of referees; policemen for sport.

Where there are policemen there is crime. The referees didn’t stop cheating; they made it into an art form. In many sports the winners are those who are the best cheats, rather than the best competitors.

Where there is trust a relationship will flourish. Where trust has eroded no relationship can survive.

Sports fans live in denial; they pretend that the game they love is being played fairly and competitively, despite evidence to the contrary. Failing relationships similarly present a facade of civility and harmony, while deeply mistrusting their partner. Both yearn for integrity and honesty in that which they love, but without trust it cannot be realised.

[i] History of the laws of the game

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