An emphatic statement was made last week to every player in the game, at any level - do not touch the match official, under any circumstances. It is a benchmark that I fully support.

Referees always invoke plenty of heated debate but one thing that should be relatively straightforward is that they cannot be physically handled, period.

While the length of the eight-game ban given to Tiago Calvano last week is up for discussion, the issue itself cannot possibly be, and yet you might be surprised.

One of the problems soccer has is the inconsistency in areas such as the interaction between players and referees, whether verbal or physical.

This is largely because of cultural differences that have built up over time, and which are extremely difficult to break down.

In Brazil, the birthplace of Calvano, there is often considerable jostling of referees over contentious decisions and, quite regularly, over ones that evidently are not.

We also, sadly, sometimes see referees being assaulted in many parts of the world, which is why the professional game has an obligation to enforce standards that others can follow at the amateur level.

The problem lies in blurring the lines in regards to player conduct and officials. Once contact is allowed, it becomes almost impossible to regulate because subjectivity is introduced.

Rather than a clear delineation on contact - that there can and will be none - the introduction of semantics would create a very dangerous environment if you are a referee.

Players will argue they merely meant to get the referee's attention, to hold his arm rather than grab it, or that his or her conduct was mitigated by the shocking nature of the decision. But the simple fact remains, the referee cannot be touched.

Historically, some players have become masters at cajoling, berating and pressuring referees to the benefit of their team. It is good to see that today's officials are trained to keep discussion to an absolute minimum.

Explaining decisions to players in the midst of competition is very much like debating your parental decisions with your kids when denying them permission for something they most desire - it can only end one way. Badly.

Out on the field, in the pressure-cooker atmosphere, it is extremely difficult not to fight tooth and nail over every decision that goes against you. At the time, most appear to be mistakes. Hand on heart, many times a player swears they did not feel a touch on the opponent, that they ''got the ball'', or that they meant no harm - and they are right. But what they meant is usually irrelevant.

Only later, when tempers cool, can we admit that, yes, the official got that one right.

In any case, referees in professional soccer make about 630 decisions per game, with some studies rating faulty calls at about 8 per cent on average, so there are always going to be decisions to disagree with. The only question is how and within what boundaries.

There is a normal competitive bias in every coach and player that referees know only too well. Their arguments are usually not born of spite or pernicious motives. The cauldron of competition is simply such that they can't help themselves.

This is why rules are required to ensure that certain lines cannot be crossed.

It is the match official's job to adjudicate free of the emotional responses, and it is these emotions that have to be held in check when it comes to referee interaction.

This is why Sydney FC's statement in saying it accepts the ban and that Calvano plays with great ''passion'' is telling, because it is the very reason the rule exists at all.

Calvano likely acted in a manner that is acceptable in Brazil, but cultural nuances have no part in the discussion, because intent is irrelevant when it comes to interacting with match officials.