The Blame Game

28 Nov

You know the world’s gone slightly awry when you actually find yourself empathising with football referees. Other than traffic wardens, politicians and bankers there probably isn’t a more vilified and criticised profession at present than that of the matchday official. Ten Scottish Football League games were called off this weekend with four more having to be officiated by foreign referees because of a strike by their colleagues. Emanating from increased criticism by managers, players and fans, the men with the whistles felt that they needed to down tools in order to demonstrate their growing discontent with how they are treated.

It can’t be easy being a referee. In many respects it’s a thankless task. Whatever you do, you will inevitably incur the wrath of those who perceive injustices occurring on the football pitch. While there is evidently a massive degree of human error that regularly happens within any game, the referee’s job is made nigh-on impossible when the game’s organising authority, FIFA, continues to refrain from alleviating the pressure by allowing technology to aid decision-making for matters of contention. And as seasons become more financially pressured with players and managers under the proverbial cosh, such mistakes are dissected, scrutinised and a referee’s frailties are being called to account with more and more venom.

A strike was felt necessary because it is the common vestige of the disenfranchised. It allows the aggrieved to articulate their concerns by refusing to comply with the status quo. What the referees were striking against was in essence the culture of blame which has taken hold of our society to such a degree that anything that is perceived as veering away from the norm is dismissed outright. If simple and honest oversights are made, rather than seeking to rectify a situation, we are more than likely to apportion blame.

Consider the teaching profession. My career as a teacher is forever stymied by the fact that I have to meet the targets set by those who do not actually experience what it is like to teach in a classroom. If those targets are not met, I will without question be called to account for my perceived failure. Without taking into account disaffection, innate ability and conventional teenage apathy, I am more than likely to be identified as a ‘poor’ teacher and my performance will be under greater scrutiny adding more pressure for me to perform minor miracles. It’s quite telling that nearly half of all newly qualified teachers leave the profession within five years. This cannot be just down to the fact that a lot of us suddenly wake up one morning and realise we’re just not cut out for the responsibility of moulding the minds of this country’s young.

People don’t begin teaching for the money. There’s something within them that makes them want to do some good in the world; to give back something of the knowledge and experience they have amassed over the years. I’ve always taught under the mantra: if a child leaves my lesson after an hour knowing something they didn’t an hour before, then I consider that a job well done. However, for many this will not suffice. Dot the ‘I’ and cross the ‘T’. In many respects it’s all about one’s worldview.

I am beginning to come to the conclusion that the real reason that many of my colleagues are choosing to leave the profession is because of the inability of many to show appreciation for the efforts we put in on a daily basis. Rather than constantly being held to account for our shortcomings, would it not be of greater benefit for our qualities to be celebrated? If my own experiences are anything to go by, a simple ‘well done’ or ‘you’re doing a great job’ would pay greater dividends than ‘why haven’t you entered this data onto the system yet?’

We’re always told that restorative justice will have far greater effects on our young people; rather than punish, aim to praise. Don’t adults respond in much the same manner? Wouldn’t we all be a lot happier if we went to jobs where we knew our efforts, ideas and input were truly valued and implemented? The Prime Minister’s so-called ‘happiness index’ would have a greater relevance if his taskforce concentrated on removing some of the impractical and sterile measures they are imposing on the population.

In essence, that’s really the reason as to why the Scottish referees went on strike. They feel unappreciated. It must be incredibly disheartening to turn up, week on week to do your job and be told, you’re not good enough, you’re a failure, you’re a wanker. Of course, nobody asks them to take on the responsibility, but if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have a game and the same goes for teachers and schools.

It won’t change anything, of course. People will leave teaching regardless and everybody will continue to hurl invectives at referees. But as a gesture, the strike gives us all a moment to reflect. How do we treat others? Could we do a specialised job better than others who are trained to do so? Is it so hard to pay another human being a compliment? Because in the end, if you’re constantly going to play the blame game, what’s the use in playing?


Further Reading:

World Cup Dispatch: 8th July – Diary Of A Nobody

Why are teachers leaving in droves? – The Guardian

Dispatches on In Bed With Maradona: Citizen Cantona


3 Responses to “The Blame Game”

  1. Kevin McDougall November 29, 2010 at 11:13 #

    Should have got Thatcher in to sort it out.

  2. Michael November 29, 2010 at 17:41 #

    Good analogy, though I’ve yet to see an OFSTED inspector scream the insults “You baldy bell-end” and “Do you speak English, you twat?” midway through a struggling teacher’s lesson. Now the kids, on the other hand…

    As in teaching, a lot of the criticism stems from a fundamental lack of knowledge. Every TV pundit should be forced to referee a non-league match, and their performances recorded and analysed. Frame. By. Frame.

  3. Craig Bull November 30, 2010 at 19:29 #

    Great work Greg! Another excellent piece with valid points!

    More of a focus on the conduct of the players of both ‘games’ (footballers and pupils) and a thank you to the referees and teachers would be nice!

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