Bad refereeing casts shadow over domestic leagues

By Hoang Nguyen   July 12, 2020 | 01:59 pm GMT+7
Bad refereeing casts shadow over domestic leagues
Song Lam Nghe An players confront a referee in the V. League 1 match with Quang Nam FC on July 5, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Dac Thanh.
The many mistakes of referees in domestic leagues this season is ruining the quality and image of Vietnamese football.

According to Vietnam Football Federation, in the first eight fixtures of 2020 V. League 1, equaling 56 games, the results of 10 matches have been affected by referee error. In the lower division V. League 2, the score of five matches were also altered thanks to careless refs. In total, 15 games in Vietnam’s top two leagues have suffered from poor refereeing this season.

However, only two referees were penalized so far for their mistakes. In the V. League 1 game between Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh and Hai Phong FC on June 23, referee Vu Phuc Hoan and assistant ref Pham Hoai Tam made many questionable decisions. Tam didn't flag an obvious offside goal of a Hai Phong player, while Hoan didn’t give any card for a dangerous tackle.

After, Hoan skipped another foul, when Hai Phong goalkeeper tackled a Nam Dinh striker inside the box. He didn’t give a penalty to Nam Dinh, offering Hai Phong to score in their counter-attack. The game ended 2-0 for Hai Phong while it could have been 1-1. VFF decided to suspend Hoan and Tam over four league games.

On July 5, in the eighth fixture of V. League 1, referees single handedly changed the score of the game between Song Lam Nghe An (SLNA) and Quang Nam FC. All revolved around the controversial goal of Quang Nam in the 89th minute. A SLNA player made a goal line clearance after a header from a Quang Nam striker. But the main referee, Nguyen Minh Thuan, awarded the goal to Quang Nam, which caused heated reactions from SLNA players.

Before making the serious mistake, he also skipped a foul in the box and refused to give SLNA a penalty. After the game, SLNA had filed a complaint with organizers, who failed to respond.

As referee errors kept stacking up, VFF decided to take action by requesting the referee department to solve the overall problem.

Not enough good referees

At the start of this year, the ref department organized training for 60 refs and assistants. However, four main refs and three assistants were disqualified for not passing the tests. In 2019, seven refs were suspended and in some cases banned from refereeing permanently. In addition, some refs were suspended after making several errors this season, severely complicating the situation.

"The number of good referees at the moment is very few. Matches are taking place constantly and we are trying to improve our work. We really need support," said Duong Van Hien, head of VFF Referee Department.

Currently, with V. League 1 and 2 running at the same time, a match takes place every five days. In the same fixture, with a total 13 matches of both tournaments, organizers must use up to 60 referees at the same time, not to mention about 20 backup referees. This number is not too much compared to the total (108), but the real problem is there are not enough good refs for each match.

This season saw a drop in the number of FIFA certified referees. In 2019, Vietnam had five FIFA refs and in 2020 the number is only two, namely Ngo Duy Lan and Hoang Ngoc Ha. The three other FIFA refs have been disqualified for failing their physical tests. The absence of experienced faces forced the referee department to use some young and inexperienced refs this season.

If previously errors only accounted for about 5 to 7 percent of the total match number, meaning that a mistake by a referee would occur every two fixtures, then with the compulsory addition of inexperienced referees, the error ratio would increase by about twice. Therefore, every fixture will include at least one match with referee errors.

Unrealistic solutions

There are a few ways to improve the current situation. The first is hiring foreign referees. But with the high cost, plus the current Covid-19 crisis, it’s nearly impossible to get many foreign refs here this season. Hiring referees from other countries is also a merely temporary solution since it won’t boost the level of Vietnamese refereeing.

The second option is using Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR), which will help minimize errors during games to the max. Vietnam Football Joint Stock Company was planning to deploy VAR in the second half of the 2019 season but technical and financial factors got in the way. It has neither acquired the equipment needed to use VAR nor got permission from FIFA. Besides, Vietnamese referees have not received any training in using the technology.

The final option is replacing the head of the referee department if the situation does not improve, as some coaches have pressed. VFF had replaced the former referee department head Nguyen Van Mui in May with Duong Van Hien, its deputy head. However, errors have kept occurring game by game.

In the 2019 season, 20 out of 26 referees in V. League 1 made errors during matches (77 percent) and 20 out of 33 assistants got things wrong (61 percent). During V. League 2 last year, 17 out of 23 referees made mistakes (74 percent), while the number for assistants hit 9 out of 25 (36 percent). These numbers proved the poor quality of Vietnamese refereeing. And with the current situation, when the season is still half done, the numbers for 2020 may get much worse.

 
 
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