Talking Point

On Monday evening alongside a few friends I returned to my old school to play in the local six a side league. We drew 1-1 but once we get fitter and used to playing with each other again, we’ll be storming the league. On the website for this six a side league, the standard of refereeing is said to be FA quality, but on Monday it certainly did not feel like it! The bloke who was on the larger side to be polite, stood on the side lines and appeared more interested in the other game on the adjacent pitch! I’ve decided therefore to discuss the contentious topic of refereeing.

In an interesting article written by Jonathan Freedland, in which he briefly discusses refereeing and the abuse they get from football fans, he refers to the progress made with referees in the NBA (National Basketball Association).

He writes ’The NBA has built a state-of-the-art “replay center” in Secaucus, New Jersey, complete with 110 screens connected by super-fast cables, where a disputed incident on the court can be viewed from any angle, slowed down to a 60th of a second. Basketball referees have become fitter too: no more “fatboys”’

The Premier League could take a lot from America’s premier basketball league. Of course it will be fascinating to see how the introduction of VAR impacts games next season: I hope we get a few more penalties! If I was a referee at the highest level of football, I’d be aware that you will never be able to please everyone but I would want to give myself the best chance not to make mistakes. Clearly all the referees have to pass fitness tests, but some would surely be better off shedding some timber to give themselves the best chance of doing their job as well as possible. As I’ve said previously, I try to avoid criticising the referee as much as possible as sometimes it can simply cover up a poor performance from the team. However, we must hope VAR reduces some blatant mistakes that have been made (Liverpool at home, United away, Leicester at home etc).

In my time playing youth football I encountered numerous referees, some of which were pretty good and others who were not. As both a person and a footballer I like to think of myself as calm and collected, therefore I never verbally abused referees. The best referees I experienced were those who allowed the captains to discuss events on the pitch within reason and who explained their decisions. The referees who demanded no back chat were often the ones who lost control of the game and were rather condescending. Clearly at the level of football I played at, the referees did not have to be in peak physical condition but obviously it helped if they moved from the centre circle! Put it this way, if a foul occurs which could potentially be given either way, the referee is more likely to give it the way of the team who does not constantly complain and question every decision.

I agree with my Dad in that being a referee is a very difficult job, and certainly not one I would want to do. Hopefully the standard of officiating improves next season and we get the rub of the green a bit more. We shall see, but perhaps before criticising an official next season, pause and consider whether you are really angry about a decision or simply the team being poor.

Coincidentally after writing this, I remembered my friend Rhys is probably starting a referee course very soon. With a bit of luck we shall one day see him officiating in the Premier League!

Hope everyone is well, have a good week.