I'm not sure if anyone's ever compiled a chart of Britain's most popular terrace chants, but I think I can guess which ones would be pretty near the top.
"The Referee's A ****er."
"You Don't Know What You're Doing."
And a non-mover for several decades now - "Who's The ****** In The Black?"
Rousing favourites, every one of them. And all sending out the same essential message - that the main match official's performance is not meeting with the wholesale approval of the assembled throng.
Now, I'm not one for chanting this sort of abuse myself. I don't really chant at all, to be honest, mostly because I'm far too self-conscious (I even used to mime in my school choir, how ridiculous is that?). But I'd be a liar and a hypocrite if I didn't admit to having quietly shared such sentiments on many an occasion.
This is for two reasons:
(1) For the duration of any football match (one that I attend in person, that is, involving my own team), I became a wholly unreasonable, pig-ignorant individual. I am not remotely proud of this, but I'm afraid that's what football does to me.
(2) I have deep-rooted authority issues. Always have had. Which means that referees, while bravely doing the sort of job that I'd never have the guts to undertake myself, unfortunately happen to bring out the worst in me, simply by existing (as do stewards in high-visibility tabards, by the way, especially the guys with goatees and ear-pieces).
But - and I know I'm about to get my head bitten off for admitting to this - I actually quite enjoy, just for these isolated 90-minute bursts, becoming an obnoxious human being. Provided this doesn't spill over into the real world, and provided it doesn't amount to much more than me shouting and growling in the direction of the pitch, and provided I subject myself to certain constraints, language-wise, then I see it as a healthy emotional outlet, a brief, blissful release from the week-long obligation to be a nice, reasonable, well-balanced, responsible adult.
And that's why I'm worried about the introduction of goal-line technology.
Now, I know Simon Rice has already blogged on this topic, expressing his own misgivings, but mine is a more basic, perhaps less socially acceptable argument. Namely, that I'd miss the chance to rant at useless, jumped-up, self-important, jobsworth match officials. (See, it doesn't take a lot to set me off...)
Although I'm genuinely appalled and angered when these people screw up - especially when, somewhat significantly, they fail to spot that the ball has crossed the goal line - there's a part of me that actually loves them doing this; a part of me that relishes all the resulting outrage and controversy, as if it proves that I've been right all my life, and that authority figures are, without exception, hopeless, incompetent buffoons.
Utterly pathetic of me, I know. You don't have to tell me.
Once technology reduces the scope for such human error among match officials - or, gasp, heaven forbid, actually eliminates it altogether - this element of the football-watching experience will disappear. Sure, it should put an end to all those terrible injustices, whether they've benefitted our own side or our opponents - and yes, of course, the Beautiful Game will be all the better for that - but who will people like me (who sometimes dislike the officials more than the opponents) be able to yell at?
To reiterate, I'm not suggesting this is an attitude to be proud of. The fair and rational part of me, the bit which controls my thoughts and actions 99 per cent of the time, knows that football couldn't exist without referees and their assistants, that theirs is in many cases a thankless task, that maintaining your composure and integrity, not to mention your dignity, when tens of thousands of blinkered fans are howling at you requires superhuman strength of mind. As I say, it would be far beyond the likes of a wimp such as me.
But I know I'm not alone in secretly enjoying the furore triggered by refereeing mistakes. Not only do crowds love to let rip, but endless column inches can be generated by just a single controversy. Radio phone-ins, blogs, Twitter, you name it - they'll be buzzing with a billion points of view. It's part of the drama.
I realise I'm defending the indefensible, but surely it can't just be me.
Yes, football will be a whole lot fairer when technology comes in. In that sense, it can't happen soon enough.
But for those of us who, besides genuinely loving the game, have used it for years as an outlet for our rather sad authority issues, it's bound to take away some of the fun.Suggest a correction