To mark the special triple holly-day of International Workers’ Day, Beltane and the anniversary of Asger Jorn’s death, the Luther Blissett Deptford 3-Sided Football League welcomed special guest referee, Holly from Holland, all the way from New Amsterdam, to officiate over this season’s penultimate fixtures.
Referees are a controversial subject in 3-Sided Football, as this extract from Dr. F. Iasco’s introductory chapter to The Book of Deptford (2017 edition) illustrates:
Referees in the Three-Sided Game:Several modern codes of Three-Sided Football have experimented with referees, but to date, no consensus has been definitively been established on their use.Major international tournaments, such as the World Cup (Slikeborg, 2014), the European Triarchy Championship (2016), or the Istanbul Biennial (2013) have used referees. As have other major cup competitions, such as the Beaconsfield tournament (2007); The Mike Shields Shield (2009); Lyon (2009); Metz (2010) and Brétigny-sur-orge (2011); Guggenheim Bilbao’s Think Football tournament (2011-12); Belarus’s 3G Football (2011); Madrid (2011); Rome (2011); Malaysia (2012); Borneo (2016); and Malawi (2016). However, other such tournaments (First Flux Footballum Equinox Fest, London, Amsterdam, Carrara, 2016) have not.Similarly, leagues such as the Luther Blissett Deptford League and the CLASS league (UK) do not use a referee (although a time-keeper is used). Meanwhile others, such as the Bogotá Futbol3 League (Columbia), the Melbourne and Sydney leagues (Australia), and Tribal (UK) have done so.AAA games across Europe, Asia, North America and New Zealand were mixed: Vienna (1997), and The Intergalactic Triolectical Football Cup (1999), for example, featured officiation, whilst Bologna (1998) and One Tree Hill (1998) did not. Others such as the Luther Blissett Three-Sided Football League, the Alytus Art Strke Biennial and DAMTP have similarly oscillated between the use of umpires and their rejection.Currently, the Luther Blissett Deptford 3-Sided Football League operates by a system of Simple Majority Vote. Consensus Decision-Making (CDM) was tried, with mixed results, proving vulnerable to the same, significant flaws identified in consensus models by those such as Jo Freeman (The Tyranny of Structurelessness, 1972, The Second Wave. 2 (1): 20) and Luther Blissett (Consensus and Its Discontents, Libcom, 2008). It was found that consensus simply tended to reproduce the authoritarian dominance of a minority, leaving little to distinguish it from the intercession of a referee. Needless to say, consensus proves popular amongst anarchists, but has no real basis in the Workers’ Movement.Simple Majority Voting, however proved more successful. Although when applied to the triolectical dynamic, this tended to result in majoritarian decisions, it did nevertheless act as a constitutional break upon the dominance of stronger teams over time, likewise preventing inordinately vocal or aggressive players from further cementing their position.It should be noted, however, that the introduction of referees has not always proved successful either. When New Cross Irregulars responded to their defeat in the 2015-16 Luther Blissett Deptford League by setting up the parallel Triball League (2017), they did so, primarily, in order to be able to introduce referees. The move was heavily criticised in the tract The Essence of Refereeing by a group calling itself Footballers for Feuerbach, in which it was argued that referees simply serve as an abdication of responsibility by those pacified by spectacular society, acting merely as an abstract projection of the players’ own powers of decision-making and debate. This position was in turn critiqued by others, from both Marxist and Stirnerist perspectives. The debates were rendered moot, however, when irreconcilable disagreements over the referee’s decisions led to the collapse of the new league within months.
Some older codes of the three-sided game, recorded as having survived into the 19th century in Central and Eastern Asia, are said to have made use of a referee known as the “Raqshaq”. This term, semiologists have speculated, perhaps derives from a Hindi expression meaning “protector”. Hindu philosophers theorised that the universe was comprised of three competing, but necessary, deities known as the Trimurti: Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Protector, and Shiva the Destroyer. It has been argued that Vishnu and his earthly avatars such as Krishna were perhaps identified with this figure. Indeed, the “Krishna dance” is known as a Lila – “sport” – and participants “play” at being cowherds who “sport” with Krishna in a kind of ritual game. Indeed, according to Alain Danielou (Hindu Polytheism, New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1964, p.144), the “gods play. The rise and duration and destruction of the world is their game”.Such theories have proved controversial, however, drawing accusations of occulted authoritarianism. Critics argue that such readings are in fact modern interpolations, made by Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, informed by Theosophical, Occultist and, ultimately Nationalistic currents, along with Aryanism and Romantic exoticism. They suggest that talk of referees having possessed some mystical or religious authority is an artefact of the authoritarian motivations that lay behind such tendencies.Whilst much evidence does indeed suggest that Three-Sided Football may once have had a ritual purpose – not only in many of its Asian iterations, but in its Meso-American and European versions likewise – there appears to be no compelling evidence that referees or other officiating authority figures, be they priests or rulers, were a regular feature of these activities. Or if they were, that they held any spiritual significance. Rather, if anything, it is the unruly character of the game-play that seems to predominate in most accounts, with the priest class temporarily reduced to figures of humour or mockery in the burlesque merrymaking of the game.