At one of the sports centres where I practice kendo there is a poster in the changing rooms pointing out that thousands of soccer referees quit every year due to abuse and physical violence from players and the parents of junior players.
Being in the process of packing for my departure to Hungary to act as a referee for the European Championships, this made me reflect on the difference between the status of kendo referees to that of the guys who officiate for more mainstream sports.
Of course every sport is different and certainly there are different levels of respect afforded to say, rugby referees versus their soccer counterparts. I imagine that it is quite challenging for a compact sized individual to give firm, critical instructions to a hyped-up front row, particularly when you are miked up for national TV, however these brave souls emerge comparatively unscathed. I suppose that part of the soccer scenario is that after taking the relevant training, it is possible to referee without having played. There is also the question of being paid for turning up. I am not sure though, that the level of payment is sufficient to justify the abuse. You may get fewer insults per pound earned as a part time parking attendant or doing the open mike spot at your local comedy club.
Kendo referees are by contrast, treated with a degree of goodwill and tolerance. I suppose that this is for a number of reasons:
- We all actively practice kendo.
- There are three of us with equal responsibility for judging yuko datotsu.
- Many of us still actively participate in shiai.
Now it may be that many shiaisha are just too polite to say to our faces what is said about us to other team members, but so far I have not been punched-out by an angry dad.
More importantly, I hope I can treat people with the level of fairness that I expect when I take part in next month’s Kyoto Taikai.