Rafael Puyol. Vicepresident. IE Foundation

10 January 2012

Referees should have their own monument. Despite past practices, they have now shown that they cannot be bought or sold, and yet they are still an object of vilification.

I’ve wanted to write about football referees for some time now. What’s more I wanted to say something positive, seeing as they are so often maligned that they deserve a bit of cheering up now and then. I´ll start by saying that they are admirable people, self-sacrificing, selfless and honest. The idea that referees can be bought off is now a thing of the past. Stories like the one my friend Theo once told me, namely that he once bought off a referee to come down in favor of a football team from Asturias, are no longer heard. Anyway, in this particular case the team was so bad that their winning goal was actually a home goal scored by a defender from the other team, upon which the referee was so happy that he ran to the middle of the pitch shouting goal! Goal!

Nowadays referees, like true love, cannot be bought or sold. But this does not stop even respectable people treating them as whipping boys on which to unload frustrations in the form of extremely colorful epithets and verbal excesses. In Spain, the words used sometimes hail from the vegetable or animal kingdoms, such as “You melon/donkey/ sea bass/mule/goat!”. Other times they are based on political life, such as “You Zapatero of a referee!”. And occasionally they are directly derived from mother and son relations, like “You son of a bitch…”.

And sometimes we do not realize that this is just another way for us to let off steam in these difficult times. I would almost go as far as to say that it is better if the referee really does do a bad job, because that way the mob will go home feeling better, eat up their baked beans without so much as a peep of complaint, and go to bed having got a load of their chest.

I once said that there should be a monument dedicated to the sandwich generation. I would now like to propose a monument to referees that would comprise of a referee standing on a plinth made up of seething football fans. His body would be leaning slightly toward the pitch, with a keen eye, a stern expression, clear intent, whistle and cards at the ready. Now isn’t that a great idea?


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