Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards took the unprecedented step of commenting directly about referees as the club released a video of alleged blown officials calls in the wake of Tampa Bay’s 2-2 draw with the New York Cosmos this past weekend.
The match was marred by several controversial calls, as did in many previous games between these two clubs.
From the vantage point of many Rowdies fans and even some neutrals, those calls have tended through time to benefit the Cosmos.
“I have been quiet all season about the poor officiating that has been taking place at Rowdies matches, but after Saturday night’s match against the Cosmos, I feel compelled to speak out.
“It’s become clear these calls are not going to ‘even themselves out’ over the remainder of the year.”
Later in the letter Edwards addressed a touchy subject:
“We have submitted the official NASL Officiating Evaluation Form after every match, pointing out these deficiencies along the way. It seems those reports have been ignored.
“While I recognize that referees are human, I firmly believe we have the right to expect fair and consistent treatment, no matter the referee, the opponent or the venue.
“Our coaches and players work too hard to have their efforts negated by bad calls.”
Unlike Major League Soccer (MLS), the North American Soccer League, which Tampa Bay plays in, does not have a disciplinary committee that regularly reviews and overturns officials’ decisions during the week.
Even with such a committee, MLS is powerless to change calls during matches but has given a sense of accountability to fans of teams that feel aggrieved by poor calls.
In many cases, MLS’ Disciplinary Committee has issued retroactive suspensions or rescinded cards.
Referees used by MLS and NASL are managed and governed by the Professional Referee Organization (PRO). PRO has become a lighting-rod for fans, and while the leagues do not directly manage the officials, they can apply a sense of justice to poor decisions.
Edwards’ complaints may move NASL down the path that MLS has taken, and that would be a good thing for the league and its fans. It might prove to be after-the-fact soothing, but when calls are deemed incorrect publicly, fans feel a greater sense of justice.