Saturday Serve

Should referees be seen but not heard?

Does the Football Federation Australia think referees are like children and should be seen, but not heard?

There's been a hell of a lot said about Canberra referee Ben Williams' decision to send off Sydney FC centre-back Nikola Petkovic in Tuesday night's FFA Cup clash against Adelaide United.

Canberra referee Ben Williams has come under fire for a controversial red card in an FFA Cup match last week.
Canberra referee Ben Williams has come under fire for a controversial red card in an FFA Cup match last week. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Sydney coach Graham Arnold labelled it an embarrassment, Fox Sports commentator Mark Bosnich said it was ridiculous, even A-League boss Damien de Bohun came out and said Williams was wrong and axed him from this weekend's round of games.

Then there's the tweets and emails and phone calls from fans up in arms their team was harshly done by.

But throughout it all there's one crucial voice missing  - Williams himself.

He's been bashed from pillar to post in the media and his own boss has given him a whack and sent him to the naughty corner for a week to think about it.


But he's not allowed the basic element of natural justice - a right of reply.

Regardless of what you think about his decision to show red to Petkovic, Williams deserves the right to put forward his case if he wants to.

Maybe upon reflection and the benefit of 14,000 super slow-mo replays like the rest of us have, he'll say, "I made a mistake".

Or maybe he stands by his decision, "From my angle it was a clear foul".

But we don't know, because the FFA won't let him speak. I know because I've asked.

I even tried the age-old childhood trick  - if one parent won't give you what you want, simply ask the other one - but alas the consistent "no" coming from the FFA was reminiscent of a Tony Abbott-led opposition.

I also know Williams is more than happy to chat - if his FFA overlords give him the all-clear to do so.

But they didn't want to throw him under the proverbial school bus.

The problem is, the bus has already been and gone and Williams hasn't been left in very good shape.

That's despite being last year's Asian referee of the year and  despite having officiated at the World Cup and the Olympics.

While former Socceroo Bosnich was critical of Williams' decision, he did raise the idea of making the referee accessible to the media to help explain his decision.

"[The FFA] should be thinking ... in the future, because we've had a few controversial incidents recently, they might start thinking about allowing [referees] to speak to the press afterwards to explain their side of the story, because for the life of me I don't understand why he gave that guy a red card," Bosnich said after the game.

In theory it's a good idea, as long as it doesn't descend into an attack on the ref in question.

Having officiated on the biggest stage, even that probably wouldn't bother Williams either.

But I guess we'll never know. In this case, silence isn't golden.

Has the ARU made the White decision?

Have the stocks of Aussie rugby sunk so low they need to give the prized post of national coach to the first person who walks past the door?

Don't get me wrong, Michael Cheika was a worthy candidate after the way he lifted the NSW Waratahs to the Super Rugby title this year.

But it all just seemed a bit rushed. 

Australian Rugby Union chief executive Bill Pulver announced he was embarking on an extensive search to find Ewen McKenzie's replacement.

It lasted one day and only had one candidate. Extensive indeed.

Once again former ACT Brumbies coach Jake White was overlooked, just as he was a year ago when the ARU opted for McKenzie.

They wanted a dinky-di Aussie to bring running rugby back after kicking out that pesky Kiwi Robbie Deans. 

Only an Aussie could lead the Aussies in the search for the elusive Holy Grail - a win over the all-conquering All Blacks.

His snubbing led to White hightailing it out of Canberra to begin a merry-go-round of short-term coaching jobs that saw him putting his hand up for the second time in 12 months.

Wallabies and Brumbies great Joe Roff thinks White's  commitment issues and willingness to grab whichever job's going have proved costly this time around.

But have we made the same mistake twice?

This was the perfect time to embrace the South African-born White's seeming addiction to short-term tenures and use him to lead a blitzkrieg on the World Cup in September.

He knows how to turn teams around quickly and while his style of rugby isn't always the prettiest to watch, it certainly wins games.

And who is the only team to beat the All Blacks since 2012? South Africa.

Probably was worth a call at the very least just to check how busy he was going to be as Tonga's technical adviser over the next 12 months.