The Sweeper: Referees Are Rubbish

Referees under pressure

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Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has ripped into refereeing standards in the Premier League, complaining about a poor decision for the first goal in Wigan’s 3-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend.

“I think it devalues the Premier League when you get actions like that,” said Martinez. “It is not even a close call and it makes you wonder. You have got a player that is two yards offside.

“I cannot explain how the best league in the world has got people that can get those decisions wrong. When you are looking at it from abroad, I think it is laughable stock. It is the best league in the world, you cannot get decisions like that wrong.”

Celtic, meanwhile, are apparently in talks with the Scottish Premier League over concerns on the standards of refereeing in that league.

Last week, Alex Ferguson voiced his complaints about the standard of refereeing in the Champions League, according to the Guardian:

Sir Alex Ferguson  has added his voice to a Europe-wide groundswell of concern about refereeing standards in the Champions League, where certain officials from smaller football nations increasingly appear to be out of their depth.

This only added to complaints from the Italian FA’s president following last week’s Fiorentina-Bayern Munich game, the Guardian continues:

Furious at Fiorentina’s misfortune, the Italian FA’s president, Giancarlo Abete, has lambasted Uefa. “Last night we all saw the wickedness that was evident and you all know what I am talking about,” he told the newspaper La Repubblica. “A grave error has been committed at this stage of the Champions League and it weighs heavily.

“But what worries me the most is the level of quality in the preparation of referees for such big games. The game was conditioned by the referee and his assistants, who were not up to the standard.”

And in the Europa League, just a couple of months ago, Fulham boss Roy Hodgson, backed up by David Moyes, launched a blistering attack on the quality of referees in the competition:

“We play at home against Amkar Perm, and I witness one of the worst challenges I have ever seen in football – and the referee decides to punish it with a yellow card.

“In the next match against Basle, [Andy] Johnson is pulled down from behind in the penalty box – and the referee decides to give neither a penalty nor a card to the player.

“Then we play against Rome at home and have a player sent off when he is clearly not the last man and actually doesn’t foul him anyway.

“Finally we go to Rome and have two players sent off – one of which is the most laughable decisions I have come across in many, many years of football.

“When I weigh all those things up I’m very, very disappointed – because we have taken the Europa League very seriously and wanted to play well.”

Does this all add up to a Europe-wide crisis in refereeing standards? Are referees getting worse? Confusingly, just the next week, Roy Hodgson pointed out the opposite as he considered the possible introduction of video technology to aid referees.

“One of the hardest jobs on the football field is that of a referee,” said Hodgson.

“The standard of refereeing today compared to 30 years ago is much, much better. I don’t really understand this unbelievable search for perfection.

“When I first started playing, we had no way of checking these things – and a linesman made a decision in 1966 which certainly worked in our favour.

“Maybe these things have always existed, we just did not know about them. The major problem today is the consequences of what, unfortunately, turns out to be a bad decision, and it is pretty obvious what those were in terms of Ireland against France.

“We have just got to constantly strive to get to a situation where a referee makes as few mistakes as possible, constantly work on them in terms of their understanding of the game and their fitness and I really think that is happening.

“An area that could be debated is whether players themselves, when something has gone diabolically wrong, could help the referee out and not just keep their mouths shut.

It might, of course, also help referees if managers kept their mouths shut more after games, Roy. It’s clear that becoming a referee is not a desirable job. The Football Association’s “Respect” campaign has not been a notable success.

At the grassroots, the English game has a serious shortage of referees, with 7,000 quitting each year, largely due to the abuse they receive and poor conditions. There are only 24,000 active referees in England with 38,000 games each week, meaning many games going without referees.  The FA’s Get Into Football campaign includes a target to increase the number of active referees by 8,000 by 2012.

It seems there are a number of factors in play here: more television coverage means more complaints from managers (even those not at the game and watching video highlights, like Alex Ferguson). But it does also make it less and less desirable to be a referee, even as demands on referees for fitness get ever higher. Does this mean many potentially good referees are quitting early on or not entering the profession at all? Who would want to be a referee when the newspapers every day feature managers berating them, for a job that ears far far less than those who do the complaining make?

Quick Hits

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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