FIFA have announced that referees will be permitted to carry pepper spray during the World Cup in Russia. Officials will be allowed to use the spray if players act in a “threatening manner”. FIFA decided to take drastic action after witnessing Gigi Buffon’s meltdown in the Champions League, where the Juventus goalkeeper confronted English referee, Michael Oliver. A spokesperson for FIFA revealed the update to the media earlier:
“Referees do not have “rubbish bins for a heart” and are definitely not “animals”. If a respected player of the game is willing to act in such a manner, we were obliged to offer our officials more protection. The Buffon incident would not have escalated had Mr. Oliver used pepper spray on his attacker”
Time for drastic action
Spanish clubs harassing referees is also thought to be a major reason behind the decision. FIFA are yet to confirm if players will be pepper sprayed for diving but Ashley Young has withdrawn from the tournament as a precaution. Various football associations around the world have urged a reconsideration based on the welfare of the players. However, the FIFA spokesperson was adamant:
“We’ve already started trialling the pepper spray in friendlies held behind closed doors. During these matches, fouls have decreased by 74% and the issuing of yellow and red cards by 88%. This is based on a referee only using the pepper spray on average 7 times per match”
Gareth Southgate has taken a proactive approach to the news. The England manager is planning to “pepper spray his players during training in order to acclimatise them to the conditions”.
Photo by DVIDSHUB