I’ve been leaving off writing this just on the off-chance that a referee would read it ahead of an important game and decide to do us over. And the very fact I have that concern speaks volumes about the current state of refereeing.
This isn’t an article based on an Everton injustice at the hands of the officials, which could be easily dismissed as an irate fan ranting in the moment. Rather, it’s a balanced view that’s came to being based on multitudes of inept refereeing for countless years.
Sure, we could go back as far as Clattenburg and really make it about Everton, but I’d rather look at more recent ridiculousness to highlight how the system is not fit for purpose.
Let’s leave “unlucky” mistakes out of it, like the recent one when John Terry hacked down a Norwich attack, as the ref was clearly blindsided. Instead, how about incidents like Ramires diving to deny West Brom a win over Chelsea. There’s no excuses here – it wasn’t even a clever dive, the ref saw exactly what happened yet, once again, a decision favours the bigger club – Andre Marriner this time making the call.
But it’s not just the big clubs that see inept decisions go their way. Stoke played Swansea earlier this season, when inexperienced referee Robert Madley inexplicably called a handball in Stokes favour late on when absolutely nobody else at all even thought there was a hint of one.
And selective blindness seems to be a trait of referees – even sending off the wrong players, such as Marriner with Kieran Gibbs, again this season.
There’s probably two referees full stop that seem remotely competent at the job in my opinion. One is Mark Halsey, who makes the occasional blunder but that’s exactly what they are, occasional, and the same with Howard Webb.
So let’s take the elephant in the room out of the equation – I don’t think referees, by and large, are corrupt. I think there are one or two that possibly are, but it becomes a finger pointing exercise with no proof if we start down that road. What I definitely DO think is that Premier League referees, by and large, are an absolute joke, so much so that tuning in to any given match now one expects to see at least one ridiculous mistake, whether it’s something as trivial as a daft throw in call or a massive game changer like a penalty.
If this consistency of failure is so rife, then there needs to be a root and branch overhaul of the entire thing. Are referees trained correctly? Are they fit enough (Lee “Let’s slow the game down to take a breather” Mason, for example).
But most importantly, is there a consequence to failure; a real incentive to not guess at decisions and make an arse of themselves, knowing all that will happen is the odd newspaper column and that’s it.
Referees aren’t fined for poor performance. They’re rarely relegated from duties and, even in the rare instance they are, it’s only for a few games it seems. They are beyond reproach – managers are not allowed to question them in the media or in many cases in person after the game. They are never required to apologise for poor performance – they just turn up, screw up and leave the wreckage for everyone else to deal with.
The modern game is such that millions of pounds depend on these officials having some degree of consistency and competency. If the modern game has moved on to such a pace that one official cannot keep up with play effectively, then the answer isn’t to shrug shoulders and say “ah well, it adds excitement” – there needs to be a proper system in place. Whether this is technology, or officials behind the goals with PROPER authority to make decisions, instead of standing there like tits for 90 minutes as they do in Europe, who knows.
But one thing is for sure – the reality of buying a match ticket, going a game and having it absolutely ruined by one incompetent guy who isn’t supposed to effect the game has to end.