It’s not easy being a referee. Most fans seem to believe you are deliberately against their favourites and, however many sound decisions you make, they pale into insignificance compared to the odd controversial call.
For example, Phil Gibbs, the official in charge for the Pompey v Leeds match on Saturday, by and large got on quietly and efficiently with enforcing the rules, but his performance will be remembered for one thing only – the obvious handball by a visiting player that would have given Pompey a penalty.
It was a bad miss, but one that goes to show that refs are, after all, only human like the rest of us.
The charitable would say that the incident was over in the blink of an eye and, without the benefit of an instant replay, any official will sooner or later simply miss a glaring infraction of the rules.
But there was no split-second nature to the aberration made by a boxing referee on the same day. It cost young Portsmouth boxer Ashley Davenport the chance to realise his dream of a national title – and it was surely so unnecessary.
It is hard to imagine the despair that the 13-year-old must have felt when, just before an ABA Schoolboy Championships final, he was told by the referee that he was being disqualified because the gum shield he was wearing was the wrong colour. Ashley’s coach Ted Harris sums it up well when he says: ‘Ashley has put in a year’s work... and he may never get another opportunity like this one. It’s been taken from him. It’s the most exciting day of his life and he’s been left heartbroken.’
Such is the level of Ted’s own upset that he is seriously considering calling a halt to involvement in the sport in which he has helped so many young men progress. That would be a crying shame and we hope it will not come to that.
We’d rather that the ABA carried out an immediate review of this pernickity decision, particularly as the boy’s gum shield was approved more than once as he fought his way to the final. It might be too late to change things for Ashley – but it could lessen the chances of other boys suffering similar heartache in future.