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The Sk8ologist
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Issue 3

Referees: who watches the watchmen? -
In the confined wastelands inside parabolic tracks or around road circuits, lays the domain of the untouchables’ caste. They are quite positive they hold superpowers, but they’re no heroes. They wear costumes, but need no masks or shields. Their candid white uniform should represent purity, cleanliness: it’s definitely not the case. Truth is, their only power comes from the regulations armor created and shaped by and for themselves, an aura that makes them invulnerable, immortal...

Roberto not pictured

Nobody ever questions their proceeding. Those foolish enough to openly challenge this bunch of despotic rulers know a severe penalty –at least- is to be expected, aside the steep bill to pay right on the spot. As it is, the minute somebody mentions their name, universal terror unleashes and general runaway follows.
Too many skaters suffered iniquities and abuse originated precisely by those who should be the holders of absolute righteousness, the archetypes of equity, the dispensers of pure and simple justice. Alas, athletes feel unprotected and even violated by these white dressed villains who try to steal the show. The whitey devils are so full of themselves that not much deep down in their rotten hearts, they nurture a strong belief that in fact THEY are the main stars of the event.
Well, it is time to have a new vigilante in town. Or, at least, a small revolution. It’s time to denounce their malevolence, to uncover their arrogance, to reveal their ridiculous mistakes, to force them to abide to their own rules. It is time for the judges to be judged.

The rulemakers

Who writes down the rules? C.I.C. is responsible for the international rulebook, as a FIRS internal organ to which all affiliated nations pay tribute (and travel expenses, gifts, deluxe restaurantes, etc) in order to participate in world class events. A step down the ladder there are continental bodies like CERS with its own rulebook; further down we find those of single national federations.  

The funny thing is that all those rulebooks have discrepancies in regards to CIC’s... as opposed as SERIOUS sports. A recent example? The 2/3 wheel frames prohibition. Question: how can a referee know by heart 2 or 3 different rulebooks? Answer: they can’t, as a result you need 30 or more to properly manage a big race. Just like the old light-bulb joke, remember?

By whom and how are nominated the national judges? I was able to document the process only for Latin countries (worst ones, I bet); did not research USA’s or other countries’ system but they are barely relevant as year after year their influence diminish. Theoretically, each federation has an internal Arbitrary Committee, which provides instructional classes from beginner to advanced levels (in the best case scenario). After exams and some real-life practice, new judges are welcomed in their own “bar”.

Ok, but who actually qualifies them? There should be a collegiate and independent commission in charge of doing so for every federation. Instead, only a regional representative (or somebody with a lesser degree) signs their credentials by federations’ mandate. That’s it. The exams in most cases are ludicrous (any moron would do fine) and rarely the national head judges are found there checking the newbies’ performance. Nobody even dared proposing the presence of an experience skater examining as well! In regards of primary practice, it is limited to a couple of infantile races... Or, even worse, the prospect referees get their debut in a national championship or similar event. With a dreadful outcome for the poor skaters, of course.

Are there any international advanced courses or seminars for referees?
Nope. Zilch. Nothing. I guess they think they already know everything there is to know, once they step into the international arena. Each year, when they meet AGAIN at Worlds, it’s just a best pals reunion, as opposed as a good chance to discuss technical refinement or better ways to do their job. No sir.

By whom and how are chosen national head referees, especially those acting at Worlds? Each federation has its own intrincated rules for that, but at the end of the day, it’s just a question of personal favours. The same applies for Worlds: FIRS/CIC asks certain federations (their favourites, for one reason or another) to send a few referees to their taste, and that’s it. So those you see in action at Worlds are definitely not the best: just the major federations president’s best friends, lovers, creditors... or merely arse lickers.  

The evidence

I could write an entire heavy volume if I was to ponder all the mischievousness I was forced to swallow by certain sumbitches officiating my races. Talking in international terms, there are way too many shameful incidents in recent years to list here, enough to bring a furious mob to the bad guys’ lair. Do I need further proof considering the recent officials nominations to World Games in Taiwan? What the populace wants to know is:

1- How can we defend ourselves from the judges’ overly stupid mistakes or misbehavior without suffering the usual consequences? There are legal instruments –buried deep down the federation’s rulebook, in some cases- to provide for that, but I am not aware of a single case in which their application had a negative result for the offender. Mind, administration invariably collected the usual fee beforehand. Better alternatives should be offered to athletes and coaches to countermeasure the referees’ undeserved supremacy over everyone else (except their own bosses, that is)
2- How come there is no national -or at least international- body that evaluates referees’ performance? Why would they want to admit they SUCK big time among themselves? FIRS’ arbitral committee is supposed to track and correct its members’ efficiency and training, punishing those who blatantly fail, but it’s a conveniently forgotten task. There should be an independent body in charge of checking general referees’ aptitude, perhaps publishing a periodic international ranking identifying the best faring individuals (in which also athletes should be able to vote), allowing only the best -say-20 to officiate at Worlds… But that’s too exotic a dream.

I am afraid such improvements are not possible under the current state of affairs. First of all, FIRS/CIC higher echelons are tightly intertwined with the judges’ conclave, so us real sport lovers can do nothing to avoid the inclusion of POLITICS into its arbitral aspect. In second place, there is no easy solution to the modern judge tendency towards false stardom: from the authority junkie to the vane diva, too many of them are absolutely confident in their god-given right to run the show from the center of the track. Is there anybody out there who does NOT AGREE? In case you do: which galaxy have you been living on lately?

Defendant's defence

All right, now: let’s be fair. Unquestionably there are good judges as well. Over the years I knew a great deal of those: deeply impartial, serious, capable men and women in many countries. I even consider a couple of them as friends. But they are never permitted to reach the higher ranks, no way. As soon as the popes notice integrity, incorruptibility, straightness in a candidate… well, the candidate becomes a target in a cross hair. Sooner or later, this person abandons the sport for good.

Luckily for us, once in a blue moon an exception that confirms the rule emerges. As a matter of fact, I can even name one: Mrs Barbara Fisher. I’m not going to give her more credit than I already did, because my public praise means further trouble for her, but she’s as hard as nails and will keep the complots at bay… until she gets tired too, eventually.

Judging is difficult and ungrateful, no doubt, but fascinating at the same time. It is not science, but an art: as such it’s the expression of a character, temper, education and culture. In a word: a personality. If we all were perfect, if no one had bad intentions ever, judges would be superfluous, wouldn’t they? As they say, Lex Scripta Lex Tradita (Italians invented that, who else?) That’s why referees are like lawyers, a necessary illness; however we should never forget that they are human and make mistakes too. Notwithstanding, this people choose to be there, so to minimize mistakes we need the white ones to be PROFESSIONALS: after all they are compensated to do their job, aren’t they? At least they ought to know the bloody rulebook by heart!
Abusers and scoundrels can be sorted somehow in a race; all that an honorable athlete asks -after so much sacrifice- is not to be cheated by an evil or stupid referee… Because that adds mockery to the damage.

The sentence

I’m not like you, you revengeful bastards. But from now on I’ll be closely watching. Guess what: I don’t belong to any federation; have no interests at play during Worlds, nor any political affiliation. That means I’m immune to your alleged superpowers, and I’ve got one on my own… the power to widely expose your idiocy, your corruption, your evil plots. Not impressive at first, I reckon, but very damaging in the long run. Rest assured, bribed out pseudo-journalists will not save your reputation: credibility is not merchandise for auction.

Gay journos serve higher bids

And I got time on my hands, eyes and ears in almost every track, and resented victims worldwide who will let me know about the worst cases of bad officialdom. So get your act together, or I’ll be making fun of you time and again, until you step aside and let HONEST referees SERVE the athletes. Get that concept into your limited brains once and for all: your job is to serve skaters, not the other way around. Or else.

Marcello Bresin


Issue 4
Issue 2