Time for a Refereeing Revolution



 Time for a Refereeing Revolution...

Yep, you read that title right. Indeed, it is absolutely time for a refereeing revolution.
Not quite like the recent urban riots or the English Civil War mind, for as funny as seeing Mark Clattenburg dancing round Trafalgar Square with a stolen TV to N’Dubz, or Howard Webb making Mince Pies illegal would be – it might distract us from the blessed football!
But there can be absolutely no doubt that we need a radical, irrevocable, and all encompassing re-shape, and frankly – revolution - of how the refereeing of English football is conducted, regulated and performed.
This is not a TalkSport drunken rant post-defeat, but something that’s been stewing in me for a long time, and has finally come bubbling out. And time for full disclosure: I am a fully qualified referee, and up until recently – did so regularly. This was before being threatened with a knife at half-time by a player I’d just sent off.

So this is a view from the inside and out, the changing rooms, the whistle and the terraces: of what badly, badly needs to be done.  And why.
Of course it still has my famous Scunthorpe tinge though.

 Indeed, when you’ve been disallowed a 97th minute winner: to cap an absolutely negligent and frankly disgusting collective performance by the officials – you become slightly more militant, but it’s okay: the water bottle and advertisement hoarding bore the brunt of my frustration!
But it adds up. Let’s not forget James Linnington – who famously reduced the Iron’s once opponents Swansea City to 6 men, reversing a penalty decision he’d given emphatically before the ball went out of play away to Sheffield Wednesday. Nothing like a referee bottling it in front of angry players and supporters. Just because there’s a lot of them.

Then there was the ridiculous sending off against the other side of the Steel City. And despite footage showing no contact – the FA’s notoriously cowardly Disciplinary Committee treated it in the way in which we must respond to them. With contempt.

It’s no coincidence that Old Trafford of all places has had the lowest amount of penalties conceded by the hosts – including an amazing decade plus entire break.

No doubt you’ll be seething with anger, at all the injustices occurring throughout our beautiful game. This is before I even touch on video technology, and the appalling lack of it.

Amazingly, football is still behind every single major sport in all of Europe, and unforgivably so. This represents the multi-track approach that must be adopted for the rehabilitation of all that we hold dear in the beautiful game.

The lack of video technology sells officials down the river, purely and simply – and without question. How can we equip these brave men, (and WOMEN!), with so much less than those noted connoisseurs Andy Gray and Richard Keys? But hey, we’ve managed it. This is not just UEFA & FIFA’s appalling intransigence – but the FA’s unwillingness to find a backbone. Surely they could buy Nick Clegg’s?

Let’s take an example. Remember the Henry handball penalty incident? Of course you do! Everyone in the ground knew it had hit the Froggy swine’s arm. Except of course those gentlemen who mattered.

Now, preventing a nation a crack at the World Cup is bad enough – but in fairness, with the officials blind-sighted, what were they to do? Nothing, they were up shit creek without a paddle. The poor Swedish referee – who’d had an excellent game up to this point: was then decried as Satan across Europe, and Stockholm’s biggest selling newspaper demanding that he never refs again.

And all because he’s not allowed to have a man upstairs watching Sky tell him what happened? Even to those City banking scoundrels, this is penny wise pound foolish. Or ‘oop North – bloody bonkers! Football simply means too much to too many people, with too much riding on it – for this scandalous laissez-fair love in to be allowed to continue.

For if those organisations which truly claim to value our input – so not just the FA, but the Premier League and the FA, let’s see if you’re responsible enough to put your money, and characters, where your mouth is. I highly doubt it.

If they don’t offer to back up referees, and weed out the unforgivable hum-dinging errors, then it’s time to offer them an ultimatum. And in the process claim the hearts of a nation. The FA got dangerously close when telling Blatter where to go. Can they really go the whole 9 yards?

Threaten the cashcow’s departure. Would the world’s chief football bigwigs really want billions of pounds to disappear from their cash flow charts? Not even Apple would put up with that! And frankly, if they are – we don’t want them. Now wouldn’t it be really gutting to see all their sticky fingers taken out of our home wonderful home-cooked apple pies!

No doubt I’ve got you on tenterhooks! So then, what the system you cry!

Now that is a toughie. Personally, the good shouldn’t become the enemy of the great. And whatever pitfalls there are, are tiny compared to the ones now. Are you reading this Mr Blatter?! (Of course he is, why wouldn’t he be?)

Something like a 5th official challenge system, similar to cricket – with a margin of error in the ref’s favour, would be perfect. But if the Satan, or worse – Rupert Murdoch, offered me say – just goal-line technology, for the soul of a loved one??? No contest!

Now for the juicy bits. It’s time to expect far more of our officials, albeit in return for a few more pieces of silver.

England’s referees are the lowest paid in Europe, which given that it’s the most difficult league on the continent to do so, (bar the El Classico & Auld Firm circular firing squad gang-fucks), is maddening. And many say – it’s like teaching. The cane has gone out of fashion, we don’t like them and we don’t respect them – but by bloody Christ we need them.

With this greater power and reward comes greater risk and responsibility of course. The FA’s ridiculously spineless Disciplinary Committee needs beefing up, and bloody properly. If refs are on three grand a game – let’s not worry about raising their hackles. We must be protective of them, but not whatever the cost.

The rating of referees must also be revolutionised as well. Not only must clubs’ appraisals have greater weight: it’s time to involve supporters in the occasion. Let’s not make this free for all, like Trip Advisor on crack – but why not! Do you not trust the masses?

Of course, take it proportionately. Promote the top 10% of referees and relegate the bottom 10% with the averaged ratings each year. Have strict divisions. Let’s stop pretending that The Crown Ground is identical to Elland Road or Hillsborough.

And finally, let’s protect referees from some of the disgusting on field antics, for society cannot have it both ways. We, like a Daily Mail incarnate, shake our heads if officials respond: but when subjected to abuse, what do we expect? This goes beyond Glasgow-style threats. Crikey – if that were to happen at the next Shrewsbury or Reading game, even I might give up!

Players’ antics are utterly impossible to condone or tolerate, especially when challenging officials’ integrity. Back in my Scunthorpe Sunday League heyday, the only profanity I wouldn’t tolerate was accusing me of cheating. I didn’t care if you called me a Scunthorpe, or asked me to for coffee. As long as I could say the same in return!

But with TV we demand better. And it simply has to change. We can’t expect referees to have to fight their way out of a corner. Even if they do give the odd dodgy decision every now and then!

So then, a bit of video technology and respect for referees. Either that or get used to Howard Webb dancing in Colonel Gaddafi’s hat whilst screaming “Scunthorpe!” on Match of the Day.

Viva la revolution!

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