88 Comments

Refereeing In Crisis: Time to Introduce Officials from Overseas or Will Technology Answer the Difficult Questions?

Howardwebb

Is time really up for the good old-fashioned English referee?

According to Keith Hackett, the former chief of English referees, the Premier League currently only has three world class referees.

He identifies these as Mark Clattenburg, Michael Oliver and Mike Dean. Prior to the recent Chelsea v AFC encounter, Hackett had previously included Martin Atkinson in this list. The solution, he suggests is the wholesale importation of ‘foreign’ referees to save the English game from the “shocking decline in correct decision-making which is ruining big games …”. (Source: Daily Mirror http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/premier-league-only-three-world-class-4443385 ).

Here on PA we have long discussed the issue of referees wrecking games and it’s not my intention to (entirely) rehash previous posts on the subject.

I would say, however, that one of the big changes for me in the modern game compared to when I first started watching, is the degree to which my emotional reaction to a match is, as often as not, dictated by the activities (or non-activities) of the day’s match referee, the collective failures of his linesmen, and the seemingly evident non-participation of his so-called Fourth Official. I can even pinpoint the game when my absolute faith in the fairness of the supposedly neutral referee was steamrollered flat out of existence. It was, of course almost ten years to the day and Mike “Blimey O-” Riley’s horrific display in Arsenal’s infamous 49th unbeaten game at Old Trafford on the 24th October 2004.

I now only enjoy partial faith.

Interestingly, back then in 2004, as after the recent Chelsea match, off-pitch unrest was widely attributed to the performance of the man in the middle. And significantly, then as now, ‘Pizzagate’ successfully deflected attention of many from the referee’s performance and the ‘Battle of the Buffet’ dominated the headlines in much the same way Arsene’s more recent – and infinitely more enjoyable – square-up to Mourinho has done. One recalls discussion of the failure to dismiss Rio Ferdinand in Manchester that awful day was as conveniently thin on the ground as contemporary coverage of Gary Cahill’s murderous assault on Sanchez.

Ever since Old Trafford – as unforgettable ten years on as it remains shameful – I’ve been as likely to have been enraged by the ‘under’-performance of an official as I have by any cheating or other dubious activity on the part of opposition players.

And that’s a pretty sad state of affairs.

Admittedly, my own partisan, biased and hugely impressionistic take on the game has inevitably coloured my view of proceedings and, acutely conscious of this, I routinely make the effort to not believe the ‘evidence’ of my own eyes, at least in the cold light of the post-match day.

For a more dispassionate coverage of the lamentable state of our unloved refereeing stable, trawl your way through our friends at Untold Arsenal’s outstanding contribution to the subject. They created http://untold-arsenal.com/referees in order to more objectively investigate the questionable but largely unaccountable performance of the nation’s most senior referees.

Eye-opening, hair-raising, anger-inducing and ultimately, depressing reading it makes, too.

To my limited knowledge, Keith Hackett’s comments are the first and most damningly critical assessment of the state of our referees by one who, in theory at least, knows exactly how difficult it is to take charge of a match and has the seniority of his past roles to back up his comments. In other words, whilst few would be well-advised to listen to my take on any game, most would do well to sit up and listen when Keith finally blows his fuse on the subject. Or at least recommends a thorough purging of the English ranks.

But whilst Mr Hackett points towards the continent as the possible saviour of our refereeing woes, is it perhaps worth asking the question – why are our own home-grown referees apparently so bad at their jobs as to effectively be in little less than an ongoing unending collective crisis?

Is there any truth in the suspicion of a long-held north (refs) v south (clubs) bias? If so, if held for so long, why does it appear particularly noticeable now?

Is the Premier League, which is now one of the most watched leagues on the planet, also the most critically scrutinised? Are we simply finding more because we are looking more?

Has the current fashion for referees to ‘manage’ the game rather than simply ‘apply the rules’ come back to bite them? Players generally know they won’t get sent off for the first few tackles, no matter how outrageous or dangerous. They also know most referees appear to have no knowledge of the devastating impact on their opponents of the practice of rotational fouling. The bizarre habit of repeatedly warning some players and electing to book others for a first-time offence is one of the most infuriatingly unfair features of the current game.

Is there actual corruption in the game? Are certain teams getting more of the rub of the green than others due to the power of their club’s limitless budgets which enable them to literally buy off referees? Or is it the presence in greater depth of the best players in those apparently favoured sides being given more of the benefit of the doubt than opposition lessors? Prior to his retirement Howard Webb was long seen as favouring Manchester United, but Martin Atkinson’s record for Chelsea (23 wins, 4 draws, 1 defeat) is just as impressive. That neutrals find this so suspect isn’t proof in itself of any wrong-doing and if anything, it’s a reflection of too small a pool of the same individuals refereeing the same teams. But it just looks awful.

The bottom line is that regardless of actualities, the integrity of the game in this country is challenged on a weekly basis by the plethora of decisions by seemingly biased referees that can, at best, be described as ‘odd’.

And it is this fractured integrity that lies at the heart of a refereeing crisis that has been brewing for so long and which adversely affects so many.

Is it really time referees from abroad took over?

I personally think overseas footballers have largely enhanced the game (despite the downsides to the national team and certain other factors) so why not give overseas referees the opportunity? Assuming their grasp of the English language is as sound as many of our home-grown players (‘basic’ should suffice accompanied by plenty of arm-based mime) then that shouldn’t be an argument for not doing so.

But fundamentally I believe the problem isn’t with the passport but rather the pace, the power and the passion of the English game.

In other words, the very factors that make it an invaluable export to the rest of the world.

It is this that renders the game vulnerable to problems for the men running the matches and their colleagues running the line. The game, fuelled by immense fiscal reward is just so competitive, so prone to gamesmanship, diving, the dark arts and other forms of what we once called ‘cheating’ that it has been rendered largely beyond the control of genuine, consistent and fair rule by the men in black. And this, I venture, would be as true of a top, top referee from a Swiss Alpine village as it is of anyone emanating from England’s north west.

For me, Keith Hackett’s intervention is simply the latest step towards the recognition of the need for and the gradual, phased introduction of technology. Even Blatter’s blathering on about it these days (http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/jun/11/sepp-blatter-video-challenge-managers-fifa) so whilst nothing is likely to happen overnight, it is, it would seem, inexorably creeping towards us.

By all means welcome the best refs from sunnier, non-English climes, but the long-term answer is likely to be digital in nature as opposed to anything more internationally exotic.
Not all will agree and concerns I know are genuine. Implementation is likely to prove challenging.

But this is something for which I personally have longed for almost ten years and for the sake of the reputation of our home-grown referees (who I understand are said to be broadly in favour of technology), as well as my personal sanity and enjoyment of the game, it can’t come a day too soon.

To once again have football conversations that centre on the skill of the players rather than the mistakes of the referees would be a marvellous thing indeed.

About ArsenalAndrew

Annoying, perennial optimist and lifelong supporter of the finest football club the world has ever seen. My support for the club manager and every single player is non-negotiable, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Retain all options on fellow fans.

Comment navigation

Newer Comments →

88 comments on “Refereeing In Crisis: Time to Introduce Officials from Overseas or Will Technology Answer the Difficult Questions?

  1. Arteta’s not bad. Better at it in the PL then the CL.

    Like

  2. Chambo has a much admired pre-pelanty ‘technique’

    Like

  3. Be nice if Arsenal got. Some penalties this season. I wouldn’t complain. Will City pay for Aguero’s miss? Hang on, there’s another miss from Aguero. Strikers, missing chances. Even good ones. It happens, I suppose. If he played for the AAAA experts on football he’d be for the rack by now.

    Right. Time to begin the long trek. Good luck everyone, I hope you all enjoy the game. I think and/or guess that Welbeck played with that ankle knock in the second England game, not sure if he’ll be fully at the races today if he starts. We shall see.

    Come on the Arsenal!

    Like

  4. Perfectly timed comments Andrew!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Walcott >>>Navas

    Like

  6. Hope Nacho and Hector have a good game today and also the other three debutants at the emirates The Ref and linos. Need the front line to fire today as well COYG

    Like

  7. Well said, well argued, well written, Andrew. If not corrupt then bizarrely inept in favour of certain clubs. Whichever way you attempt to dress it up the game is more than scarred it is ruined by the standard of officiating.
    As you say rotational fouling is never spoken of except by supporters and the ridiculous habit of endless warnings for some players and then huge over reactions towards others has got to stop.
    Apart from financial doping it is the single biggest issue in the game.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Excellent stuff, Andrew!

    Unfortunately we have it in this match already. A blasted shame.

    Like

  9. How very fucking apt this post is…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. we are seeing an inept ref in our match today, fouls to AFC not given,(cost us their goal) time wasting going unpunished, easy frees to Hull.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Ref in Chelsea game actually punished one of their awful dangerous tackles but the evened the score before he got into too much trouble with a tame two yellow sending off for Palace. The ref at the Emirates is just awful. Sunday league officials at a premier league match.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. Come on boys!

    Like

  13. Looks like we are trying to out shite the referee… Farkin elll!!!

    Like

  14. I have bet several work colleagues Arsenal were about to embark on a 10 game winning streak… So, can we please stop trying to wind me up and win the ting innit!

    Like

  15. nbc sports not working!

    Like

  16. alexis sanchez!!

    common you!! lets win this boys!!

    Like

  17. Another poor performance all round…. Mid table calibre from Arsenal, Pub team from the Ref.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. A good thing is this team keeps fighting till the end. These draws will become soon become wins. Well, it would have most probably been a win had the ref called that foul.

    I tell you what, the bad calls are doing my head in. Draining as heck.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Saw about 10 minutes of the 2nd half. Can’t even comment on it other than it was a bad goal to concede.

    Like

  20. Wilshere went off injured? Blow wow!

    Like

  21. So Aguero gets pulled back by the shoulder and it’s a red card and a pen, while Flamini gets pulled back and the ref allows it. And as stated in the write up, where is the help from the linesman. Blasted joke business.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Hugely disappointing result and performance. We must do better, and we will.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. cant say it was a poor performance except i dont know the meaning of performance. it was one of our better performance of the season, but again individual errors and the delibrately patetic referee cost us two points.
    arsene must be the most unlucky manager in history. the kind of effort from the lads today deserves a wide margin victory but as any team assembled by wenger this days always do, they conceded two goal from their only real shots on target.
    flamini should know from his two spells at arsenal that no epl referee will disallow a goal against arsenal even if the player comitted murder before scoring. a pass back to szcz would have prevented the referee from having it his way.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. has sir szcz been able to keep any clean sheet this season?

    bellerin had a good game. same as monreal.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. very smart performance by the ref today, it will have done his future the world of good, will have got full marks from the PGMOL.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I can’t believe I got out of my sick bed for that. We should have made our superiority count early on 24 shots, 9 on target and only 2 goals to show for it meanwhile Hull get 2 out of 4. If we cannot sort this out, we will continue to suffer. Perhaps we need to pay less attention to the build up and more into the end product. It’s so frustrating. I’m just glad that Hull’s cheating and the referees incompetence didn’t cost us more than 2 points today.

    Both of Hull’s goalkeepers should have received yellows for time wasting and at least one of our yellows seemed down to the Hull fans calling out and the referee turning around to see one of their players rolling around. He did not see the incident, so how he managed to produce a card for an Arsenal player is beyond me. According to the match stats we committed 9 fouls and ended up with 2 yellows, while Hull committed 13 (plus all the others not called) and also ended up with 2. 6 minutes of extra time didn’t even begin to account for all the time wasted at goal kicks, throws ins, faked injuries and leisurely substitutions. I thought Hull were despicable and I don’t wish them well at all.

    That was a very expensive result for us – 2 points dropped in what should have been a routine win and another player lost to injury. The only bright spots were Bellerin who really grew into the game and prevented a few dangerous opportunities for them and Monreal, who deputised reasonably well for the imperious Koscielny. Also Alexis is looking like a good buy – technical quality married with hard work. Another goal and assist today. Oh and a word for Campbell who did not look out of place when he came on and brought some much needed energy to the attack and defence. I hope he gets more chances now.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Daren’t say too much more other than to report that the disappointment of having yet another game dominated by the actions/inactions of the officials was infinitely worse than the dreadful but entirely unpunished time-wasting by Hull. Although fortunate to be in the Emirates for today’s Refereeing Horror Masterclass, it was dispiriting to hear the crowd ironically applauding the ref on the odd occasion things went our way. Chants of “Cheat, cheat cheat” really should have no place in any game taking place under the auspics of the Premier League, but there you have it.

    There is clearly a fundamental problem when week in and week out the referees are at the centre of all the game chatter, the analysis, the incidents and ultimately the results.

    The embarrassment at PGMOL Towers must be palpable.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Passenal’s dead right, Hull were despicable; one of these days one of their actors, I mean players, really will be seriously and possibly dangerously injured.

    The potential consequences will be on the spawm of Ferguson’s fat head.

    Liked by 3 people

  29. The goal was gifted to them, that is where the match turned from what I saw. Had the ref done his job, I think we would have crushed them. Games turn on lesser things than a goal, we have all seen that.

    Liked by 3 people

  30. we really do have a lot of morons following our club, look at this lot
    https://twitter.com/arsenalaction

    Like

  31. Not the best result today, credit the lads for fighting back for the equaliser.
    Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that Arsenal get the teams who don’t lose all their places post international break?

    Like

  32. Right you are, Andrew. Actors, indeed. I have never wanted to punch a footballer as much as I wanted to punch Michael Dawson today. That smug half smile as he left the pitch…as slowly as possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. I haven’t seen the game, nor can I find any balanced report on it. I followed the match (surreptitiously) on Twitter which became increasing and unpleasantly toxic. Two of our summer signings scored and I heard that a clear unpenalised foul led to their equalising goal. Anything else I need to know? Are we doomed?

    Like

  34. Morning PA and George

    George, I’ve got a new post up, “Wenger must go….” Not as bad as it sounds but I would wlecome some viewpoints from PA. It’s just examining the future and Wengers eventual retirement. http://wp.me/p4FeF9-jq

    Like

  35. What is ironic is the clammer about buying defenders used as a reason for conceeding yesterday when (taking the ref and linos blindness out of it) it was midfielding errors that were at fault for the goals. Also wastefulness in the final third that could have put those mistakes right. Decision making at vital times let us down as AA said that will come with a less diisrupted side and more familarity.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. I finally managed to watch the whole game. I expect there are more calls of Wenger Out by the usual dimwits – but really I thought the team played rather well. The referee did a bit of tilting, obviously. But match by match the attacking play is getting better. This is only the beginning. I really could care two fucks for the opinions of idiots on twitter or other places ranting as they usually do. Truth be told – and someone who was actually at the match can confirm – but I thought the crowd got behind the team quite well. As long as the team gets better with each game and the atmosphere, seemingly, seems to get better, I really have no complaints.

    We all know the truth. This Arsenal squad has so much talent that without being allowed to kick our players off the park, what hope do the rest have? Poor little cheating referees – just evening up I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

Comment navigation

Newer Comments →

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: