Jean-Marie Lartigot: "The referee has a role of triple protection"

If the start of the 2021-2022 season was marred by many incidents in the stands, that of the current exercise is by the multiplication of controversies linked to arbitration. Between red cards drawn at lightning speed, jostling and little murderous phrases, the life of the men in black seems more complicated than ever. Former referee of Ligue 1 and European Cups between 1981 and 1994, Jean-Marie Lartigot continues to exercise his eyes on a profession that is dear to him. We took advantage of the international break to ask him to deliver his analysis.

This Tuesday was held a meeting organized by the Technical Direction of Arbitration (DTA), in which a little more than half of the coaches of Ligue 1 participated. How does this kind of initiative inspire you?
For me, it’s a good idea, because it’s an environment that is constantly changing. But this is not the first time that referees have met clubs. Moreover, in the past, some even went to participate in training. This is no longer the case today, and I find that a pity. Just as I find it regrettable that only eleven clubs responded favorably to this invitation. I do not understand why we do not send, failing that, at least one assistant or the sports director. On the one hand, we have a massive challenge and when the DTA takes a step forward, we don’t come. You don’t have to come and cry afterwards.

To hear certain speeches, we would have in France the worst referees in the world. Why do you think the situation is so bad right now?
One element particularly concerns me: at the end of this season, there will be 20% of descents in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, and a third in National 1. It’s huge and the clubs are already starting to count the points. When I was refereeing, what was called the “death match” usually took place on the penultimate day, now it’s squarely on the tenth. So that doesn’t help the general atmosphere. Then we went from tactical-technical football to tactical-physical football. I refereed about 245 Ligue 1 matches for thirteen years and I don’t remember seeing brow bones exploding on a nudge. The players are certainly sharper than before, but we see more and more violent gestures, and in the middle of that, the referee must sort out, and I don’t think the DTA has launched a number policy, with a number of red cards to come out, determined at the start of the season. The referee has a triple protection role: that of the game and therefore of the spectacle, that of the health of the players and that of his own authority.

“I’m not going to go so far as to say that it’s a reflection of society, but we live in a world where everyone contests. »

When the president of the Stade de Reims, Jean-Pierre Caillot, openly says that there is “a problem with French arbitration” does that shock you?
Of course, even if it’s been 28 years since I left the field and four years since I finished my job as an observer. I am not defending my ex-corporation, but nine times out of ten, these disputes have no place, and I find it increasingly difficult to hear these criticisms which often come from people well placed in the stands. . I won’t go so far as to say that it’s a reflection of society, but we live in a world where everyone contests. We are for what is against and against what is for, and from the moment things do not turn out in favor of our favorite team, we go wild, verbally and physically, in the stands, on the field and the networks. social. I still watch a lot of matches, in France and abroad, and I often say to myself: “My poor referee, what’s he got! »

Can you think of a recent encounter in particular?
When I see Pierre Gaillouste in Metz against Guingamp, he was really brave. If the second Messina expulsion is debatable, the first and third are absolutely not. And we come to defend a player who sputters in the face of the referee and another who tackles his opponent’s knee, even if it means smashing him for the rest of the season. To get back to sleep after a game like this… (He sighs.)

However, this atmosphere is not new. Already in 1984 she was illustrated in the film Death to the referee
(He cuts.) I remember it very well since we were invited to the preview with Michel Vautrot. These were the beginnings of what was to come, but on the ground, it did not happen like that. I’m part of a generation that experienced conflict and rants at the end of matches. It was the period of presidents like Tapie, Bez, Borelli… But after a quarter of an hour, it was over, we didn’t talk about it anymore, we were already thinking about the next match. Today, it is said that the referees withdraw into themselves, but they are constantly attacked! What would you do if you were watched and judged constantly? They protect themselves.

“I experienced protest, even a little violence, with artists like Éric Di Meco, Patrick Colleter and Gernot Rohr. But it had nothing to do with today and the packs of players throwing themselves at the referee. »

Wouldn’t a solution to reduce the pressure be to equip the referees with microphones, as is already done in rugby for example?
There, you touch a sensitive point, because I live in the Arcachon basin, where the rugby culture is very present. It can be positive, at least to keep the players quiet. In rugby, the exchanges are very courteous, far removed from what we saw with Kimpembe against Brest. But you also have to take into account the mentality of the spectators, which is not at all the same. When children take their first club license, they are taught the laws of the game and to respect the opponent and the referee. In football, we give them a pair of shoes and a ball and we tell them: “You are going to play football. » During a rugby match, only one player has the right to speak to the referee: the captain. If another approaches, he is put back in his in-goal quickly done well. Me, I experienced protest, even a little violence, with artists like Éric Di Meco, Patrick Colleter or Gernot Rohr. But it had nothing to do with today and – I use a somewhat violent term – the packs of players throwing themselves at the referee. Something has to be done, football is taking a dangerous turn. Whether economically, in the stands or on the pitch. And it’s not just about Ligue 1. Do you have any idea of ​​the atmosphere at amateur level? Everybody cries, nobody wants to lose.

Maybe we are unconsciously inspired by what we see in the pros.
Absolutely, especially with the little ones. They identify with Mbappé or Griezmann, want to dress like them, do their hair like them, make the same gestures on the pitch and they challenge like Verratti. I understand that these players are examples, but there are good and bad examples. Until we have improved the climate on the pitch, in the stands and on the benches, we will not move forward. If referees applied the Seventeen Laws of the Game, even wisely, not many games would end. And it’s not the VAR that will serve as a miracle solution.

We actually have the impression that it creates more problems than it solves.
80% of incidents are not resolved. Where they are is in offside situations. And it hurts my heart, because it’s millimetric. If the player wears a 48, he sticks out a centimeter and that’s a shame because football is all about scoring goals. I personally prefer a game that ends 5-3 rather than 0-0. Afterwards, the VAR is a good tool, but it’s too restrictive.

Is there a model that we should follow for “clean up the climate” ?
Look at European matches, where we play the same sport with the same rules. Do you think there are so many red cards? No. Why ? Because the players are much more careful, simply because UEFA’s disciplinary and financial sanctions are much more severe. In any case, I am convinced of it. If I remember correctly, appeals regarding disciplinary sanctions are almost never taken into account. UEFA is a monument of sporting and disciplinary organization, and the referees are very protected when officiating at European matches.

What does the role of observer that you exercised until 2014 consist of?
The purpose of this role is to evaluate the performance of a referee. Is he good at this level, can he go higher or on the contrary, is it too high for him. What matters is the way he conducts the debates, does he dominate his match during the hot moments, does he respect the instructions of the DTA, and his performance is subject to a global appreciation. We are not here to lecture him because the touch was not made in the precise place, that is for young people, not for the pros. And finally, we will perhaps indicate two avenues of work to keep in mind. That’s enough, no need to list fifty. But you know, from the final whistle, the referee often knows how to assess his match correctly. Moreover, they are required to do their own debriefing before sending it to the DTA.

Let’s finish with two practical cases. First, the red received by Jean-Clair Todibo after nine seconds against Angers. Did the referee “kill the game”?
I think he is well placed in the center and he sees a player who punctures the defense, certainly, well aligned, and he is very lucky to appear alone against the goalkeeper, even if he is still 21 meters away of the goal. Todibo’s gesture is a characterized anti-game act, and the referee, technically, cannot help but show him a red card. He applies the instruction. For me, the decision is good. Regarding the nine seconds, it does not change anything. We do not have the right to put a trip in the first second like in the 90e minute. Penalties must be taken according to the gesture, not the time left to play, even if afterwards it is complicated because you have to hold the helm of the boat firmly to prevent it from pitching.

Last example: the expulsion of Rémois Bradley Locko against Monaco, after which the director of the DTA Pascal Garribian came to make his my culpa on the set of La Chaîne L’Équipe.
There we can discuss. He wants to clear the ball, but, accidentally, no longer controls the end of his gesture, and the shoe comes crashing down on his opponent’s calf. If you take a freeze frame at the moment of impact, it’s red. But you also have to take into account the intention of the player, which is to play the ball. For me, a yellow card would have been much more suited to the situation. When Pascal Garibian comes to explain himself on TV, it is because the controversy is very strong and he must support his referees, even if it means scratching one who has gone overboard. Referees like to feel supported once in a while, you know, and when their boss comes to speak for them, that’s not bad. When we remain too long in silence, it is because we are at fault.

Not sure that was enough to calm Óscar García, who cried conspiracy against Reims at a press conference after the last day.
There is no conspiracy, on the contrary. The guy who will arbitrate Reims will precisely redouble his vigilance so as not to go overboard. But if there is red, there is red, he is doing his job, hoping that at the end of the match, the players and coaches will come and shake his hand. Just see Pierre Gaillouste after refereeing Lille-Toulouse. He was coming out of his match in Metz, and we could see that he was the happiest man in the world because he had hardly had to put his hand in his pocket (only two crackers against the Mastiffs, editor’s note). In those moments, we say to ourselves: “Thank you gentlemen for your state of mind, now I will sleep well. »

Interview by Julien Duez
Photos: Icon and personal archives of JML.


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