'You're hurting Italian football', refereeing chief tells critics
'Everybody has thought of their own interests and not about the good of the game'
The head of the Italian referees' association hit back today after a spate of controversial decisions in Serie A and the Coppa Italia led to bitter criticism of match officials.
"Everybody has thought of their own interests and not about the good of the game, the (problems) that you can cause by saying the wrong things," Marcello Nicchi, the head of the Italian Refereeing Association (AIA), told state broadcaster RAI in an interview.
Recent controversies have included the award of a 97th-minute penalty which gave leaders Juventus a 2-1 win over AC Milan 10 days ago, the award of two penalties to Napoli in a Serie A match against Crotone and the award of two penalties to Juventus in a cup match against Napoli.
Referee performances in Serie A are pulled apart in detail on roundtable television programmes and by newspapers and debates can last for days.
"On the basis of a few mistakes, some clubs have found justification for failing to achieve their objectives, some coaches have started eyeing the renewal of their contracts and some editors have taken advantage to sell a few extra copies," said Nicchi, himself a former international referee.
"In doing so, they forget they hurt the image of Italian football.
"We have had some wonderful, intense games but (the result) has been traced back to a single incident such as throw-in, a penalty - things which will always happen even with the use of technology."