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Few would argue that footballers deserve the exorbitant wages that many of them receive. Samuel Eto’o’s contract at mega-rich Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala sees the Cameroonian forward take home a fee in the region of £250,000 a week, and he is far from alone in commanding that sort of money. Carlos Tevez is currently making around that figure despite being on strike at Manchester City and despite playing for the relatively small time L.A Galaxy, former England captain David Beckham is rumoured to earn roughly $40 million a year.

Emmanuel Adebayor attracted column inches recently, with few praising his refusal to drop rumoured wages of £170,000 in order to join Tottenham Hotspur. Adebayor’s reasoning was simple – “We all play football to get money”. Perhaps not a quote designed to curry favour with the romantics, but one that is rooted in the realism that is lost on them all too often. While Adebayor is of course generalising, he is largely correct. After all, who would put in the commitment required of footballers for no reward? I am not suggesting for one moment that the sacrifices made by professional footballers are equivalent to the hundreds of thousands a week that many of them earn, but I can say with some certainty that few of us would turn such fees down if offered. There are vast, some would say outrageous sums of money floating around the footballing world and it is not the players who are to blame – if it was not going to them it would certainly find its way to less deserving recipients. The fact is that we, as fans are one of many groups indirectly responsible for making football the big business that it is today – all the players can be blamed for is having the nous to try to earn as much as they possibly can. No one would dream of criticising a friend for earning a promotion or pay rise, however undeserved, so why is it acceptable to shun the professional footballers who entertain us on a weekly basis for what is essentially the same thing?

Football is a career lacking in the security that many others can boast. All it takes is a bad injury, or even a period of poor form and the dream could be over. For many footballers it seems to be a case of earning as much as they can, while they still can – hardly a surprise when many of the financial difficulties encountered by careless ex-pros are taken into consideration.

It is all too easy to characterise footballers as mercenaries, but that doesn’t mean that it is correct. They are not thieves; they certainly do not force us to part with the cash that ultimately pays for their wages. While I am sure that there are some who have taken a few clubs for a ride, there are just as many and almost certainly more who simply want to earn as much as they can in order to provide a comfortable and secure existence for their loved ones. Cheesy? Of course, but who could begrudge them that.

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In recent weeks, perhaps even more than usual, it seems that the spotlight has been centred firmly on British referees – or to be more specific, their mistakes. The main point of contention seems to be the ruling on dangerous tackles, with Vincent Kompany’s sending off against Manchester United sparking much debate over what exactly should constitute a straight red card. The masses call for both clarity and consistency from our referees – which on the surface seems simple enough. The reality of the situation however, is a little murkier.

 

Take Kompany’s much discussed dismissal, awarded for a somewhat overzealous, if largely successful tackle on Manchester United’s Portuguese winger Nani. This was no Diego Maradona handball, a glaring mistake of the sort to unite an entire nation. This was simply a contentious decision, one that collective fandom found it tellingly difficult to classify. Again, consistency is called for from officials, from a body of fans who have themselves struggled to come to a collective decision. Referees should of course be operating on a level above the average fan, but they are only human. Some decisions will always be ambiguous and this does not reflect on the quality of officiating.

 

It seems glaringly obvious that those calling out Kompany’s dismissal as somehow ‘spoiling the spectacle’ would be the same supporters crying out for more protection were their team’s star player to be damaged by a similarly crude challenge. Had Nani himself not so deftly sidestepped Kompany’s lunge, the nation’s best supported club could have been without one of their brightest talents for, potentially months.

 

Had that been the case it seems likely that those calling for clarity and consistency would shuffle quietly to one side – quite possibly to join a baying mob calling for Kompany’s head. Situations like these often seem to require a villain – the problem being that fans often forget that without the referees that they victimise there would be no football at all. It now seems an instantaneous reaction to question refereeing decisions, a clear sign that their authority has been heavily compromised in recent years, with the figures that were once seen as all powerful overlords of the game reduced to little more than sounding boards for the frustrations of fans, players and managers alike. Football is not in need of any more scandal, and for order to be restored referees must regain a power that seems to have been lost somewhere along the line. Clarity and consistency? I think it is perhaps more important that you practise what you preach – an adage that the football fans who barrack officials would do well to keep in mind.

Words by Josh Tait