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Professional referees need our help

Monday 8th May 2017
When we were young and realised we didn't have enough ability to make it as a professional footballer, what became a second choice career? I know I didn't, but did any of you think about putting on a black kit, grabbing a whistle, pocketing two cards, and joining the ranks of professional referees? Probably not. Why?

The left wing was my favourite position at comprehensive school. I used to relish receiving the ball on the halfway line and giving my legs a stretch down the line. Whip the ball onto the penalty spot, met by the centre forward. Goal!

If someone asked me to referee the game, I'd be bored. I'd much prefer to be involved in the action.

Fast forward 20 years and we are talking about professional referee's decisions more than the action between the 22 players on the pitch. If you want to be the centre of attention today, put on a black kit and become a referee.

Honestly, who wants to be a referee? I couldn't do the job; I take my hat off to them. Yet, the serious point is, in the past season incorrect refereeing decisions have had major repercussions on some clubs status, as well as managers or coaches careers.

What areas do professional referees and league officials need to study up on over the closed season? Sensible decisions are needed to take the limelight off the referee.

Pushing & Shoving

It's humorous how defensive players try to block off the attacker at corners and free kicks. It's humorous that they think pulling the shirt to the point of ripping is legal. The response, of throwing both hands in the air as if suddenly realising the shirt they were grappling has been soaked in a deadly disease is laughable.

“Me ref, I didn't touch him.” innocence expressed over his face.

What's not funny is the inconsistencies with which referees interpret this action. In one game, you barely touch the attacker and have a penalty awarded. In another, the attacker has the defender's arms wrapped around his body as if inviting him to a slow dance. A moment later, the attacker is bundled to the ground. Nothing!

“Play on…”

Two footed tackles

The problem of two-footed tackles is getting out of control. Was he off the ground or not? Did he have studs showing on one or both feet? “Was he in control or not?” The questions are endless, which may or may not answer for inconsistencies.

Can you imagine the referee running through those questions in his head making a correct decision in a split second without any help from video technology?

This past weekend we had the tackle from Harry Arter on Joe Allen. Stoke City manager, Mark Hughes complained that the Bournemouth midfielder should have been given a red card. Eddie Howe, without seeing a replay, suggested that watching it live he thought the referee made the right decision.
What about the two-footed tackle from Marcos Rojo against Wilfred Zaha? Rojo received only a yellow card, but it was plain and simple that it should have been a red. A red card for Rojo at that point of the game may have meant Crystal Palace were not fighting for survival this week. Also, Alan Pardew might still have a job.


This problem could be easily solved. Yet, every week we still have players successfully deceiving officials for an illegal advantage. The diving is comical. Players have to come out afterwards and try to save credibility.

Do you remember the tweet from Robert Snodgrass? On December 10, 2016, the Scotland international wrote:

Apologies from my end it was never a penalty, but genuinely thought defender was going to slide, so tried to ride the tackle.

We laugh, but this decision went in favour of Snodgrass.

This season there have been many comical dives. It's hard to remember who did what. Dele Ali's dive against a doomed Bob Bradley's Swansea was an absolute joke. Tottenham were awarded a penalty - three points. Where is Swansea now? Oh yes, that's right, fighting off relegation.

How to help professional referees?

What can be done?

That's easy!

  • Video Technology: We need to use video technology to help referees with decisions that are pivotal on a game such as a penalty, red cards and second yellow cards.

    • Everyone else can watch a replay, why not the referee? They would get more major decisions correct.

  • Retrospective Action: Premier League managers agree with retrospective action. It would only need a few months until these offences, particularly diving, are dramatically reduced.

    • At the moment, if a referee has dealt with an offence live, then retrospective action cannot be taken. But there must be cases where the referee realises he has made a blunder and wants to reverse his decision.

While video technology and retrospective action may not change the game's outcome, it will at least let the players know they can't get away with violent conduct or simulation.

Now is the time for action

We share these concerns at the end of a season when we've had enough of something. Well, we have now had enough of inconsistent decision-making from referees. Now, with the close season ahead, it's time those in charge make positive changes for next year.

Please, take the attention off the referee and let us focus on what we came to watch.

The football!
Lee Nicholson
An avid reader and follower of football at all levels. Always hoping that Leeds Utd will rise again once more from the ashes. Holds an emotional attachment to the progress of AFC Bournemouth. Love to analyse, talk and write about the beautiful game.

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