Monday, September 26, 2011

What a crock

Previously on Kicking Back we have discussed the age restriction that FIFA panel members have to live by. In short, you may referee until age 45, after that, you are retired from the panel. Keep in mind the history as well, that this age is down from 50 years old, not too long ago.

Well there are a couple of things that continue to make be believe that this decision for such highly trained athletes (i.e. the referees and ARs) is nonsense.

First, admittedly is my bias as I start to approach that age of mandatory retirement. Granted I may be having a Logan's Run moment, but I digress.

Second, is my genuine belief that fitness alone does not make a good referee. Or to say it a different way, fitness is not the only concern in such a realm. Now granted, fitness is critical, but it is not the end all be all in controlling a match. A referee can survive with slightly sub-par fitness (relative to a Cooper or BIP test) and do just fine. Lets face it no one is "on" 100% of the time. In fact, if you look at it from a sports science perspective, it can take anywhere from 10 to 21 days for an athlete to peak in fitness level, far more than the interval between matches.

Third, and this is really what spurred this whole thing, is Diana Nyad. Here is a woman who is swimming between Cuba and Florida. That's 103 miles. Yikes! (As a personal aside I have been toying with doing some sprint triathlons and even the 1/4 swim is too much for me) By the way, did I mention she had not swam at all in some 30 years?

And oh yeah, she's 62.

Still think 45 is the right age for retirement?

I don't.

Listen, I know the science, after the mid 30's for a variety of reasons I won't bore you with here, fitness declines and can't be recovered. But this is as individual as the athlete themselves. To make such a sweeping generalization about everyone that 45 is it, may be a convenient application of Pareto Efficiency, but does not reflect the reality that referees need a component of life experience to manage such high level matches. Take a look at the ages of referees in World Cup Finals: In hovers right around 40 in recent history, and has been as old as 54 (George Reader in 1950).

One can not reasonably make the argument that a person is fit at 45, and 45 + 1 day they are not.

If a referee is not fit, release them, if they are however, don't prohibit them from competing if the only thing they have "against" them is their age.

There is a compelling argument the other way however that is tough to dispel, and can be found here from UEFA.

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