Tuesday, May 30, 2017


PSSI Appoint Ref Supremo

Following a barrage of complaints regarding the performances of match officials in the first few weeks of the season the PSSI have appointed a ref 'supremo' in a bid to improve the quality of the whistleblowers. And, most unusually, they have looked beyond their own shores and tasked George Cumming to improve performances.

Cumming is a 66 year old Scotsman who has been involved in football since he was a kid. Indeed, most unusually for a ref, he has actually played the game, wearing the shirts of Hamilton Academicals, Partick Thistle and St Mirren before taking up the pea and whistle.

From officiating in Scotland he went on to join the Scottish Football Association where he was in charge of refereeing for 13 years. Then to FIFA where he worked as a referee supervisor He got to live in Zurich and was in charge of referees at the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup. In 2011 he headed to Malaysia when he joined the AFC. While in Kuala Lumpur he headed Project Futire, an initiative that puts refs through a two year programme aimed at preparing them for major competitions such as the Asian Cup and World Cup.

In an interview with a Scottish newspaper in 2013 Cumming admitted having been a player was a great help when it came to officiating games. It is often said match officials know the rules, they just don't know the game in a way players do. They don't have that instinctive feel for the game that comes from years of kicking a ball around in various different environments. Potbellied terrace pundits scream hysterically at decisions taken on the field that to the ref seem to follow the rules but overlook actions that give players and many fans cause to doubt the final decision.

'Playing is the best part of football,' he said. 'I loved my time and I played at a fairly high level but when I was refereeing I enjoyed that as well. Being a footballer has helped ... because you get a feel for the game. You can relate to players. But the minute you step over the line from being a footballer to being a referee, you're a decision maker, a law man and not everybody is going to agree with what you say.'

Cumming arrives at a time when it seems complaints about the match officials seems to be higher than ever but he is quick to point out no one is ever happy with the ref in any country in the world. And that's true. It may also be true some coaches and managers around the world use criticism in a bid to influence officials ahead of games. Here is a little bit different. You rarely hear about a ref before a game, only after it. 

The Scotsman got to see his first game when he travelled to Palembang to see Sriwijaya host Madura United, The game ended 0-0 and Cumming felt the ref did well for the first 75 minutes but was less impressed with the last 15 minutes when he felt there were a number of poor decisions. 'From that we can take a number of lessons. Why did it happen like this? From the start it was good but at the end there were problems.'

Not wanting to pre empt Cumming but as a fan watching games over a number of years it has been common to see players fade in the last 15 or 20 minutes as well. Could it be a fitness related thing?

Appointing Cumming is a bold move by the PSSI. Let's hope he can be a real vehicle for change and not just someone given a desk and a title to impress people. He certainly has his work cut out and faces a number of real challenges, not all of which may be immediately clear to him. He obviously won't be able to watch every game live and even watching games on TV may not always be helpful given the low number of camera angles available. He really needs to get out and about to games all around the country in Liga 1 and Liga 2 and he needs to build a trusting relationship with the refs who will be left in the firing line when his two year contract comes to an end. 

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