Referees have another weekend to forget

November 25, 2013 in Features, Football League, Premier League by Jamie King

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As a radio producer working on a popular national football phone-in program, each week I’ll be writing about the big talking point(s) that got the fans calling in their droves.

This week it has to be referees. There always seems to be a point in the season in which the consistency of referees gets questioned. This weekend is that point.

Manchester City v Chelsea - FA Community Shield

It all started two weeks ago when Steven Reid’s ‘challenge’ on Ramires was judged to be a foul and resulted in a late penalty, which Eden Hazard put away. Two vital points dropped for The Baggies and gained by The Blues. This meant the debate that big clubs at home get big decisions reared its ugly head again.

But the biggest ‘can of worms’ from this was when Steve Clarke revealed that Mike Riley (head of referees) called the West Brom manager to ‘apologise’ for the penalty Andre Marriner gave against his team. José Mourinho came out and said that this set a ‘dangerous precedent’. I totally agree (and not just because I’m a Chelsea fan). I can’t believe that Riley called to apologise and that’s the problem - it’s been branded as an apology. I would have thought the ex-referee called Clarke to explain how the decision was made, and if that was the case, this needs to be public.

After this, two weeks ago and only talking to fans about bad referee decisions, I thought that this week we could talk some football. No chance. There was a catalogue of wrong decisions this weekend; Wes Brown’s red card (which Robbie Savage described on Match of The Day 2 as the worst decision he’s ever seen), Yannick Bolasie’s red card, Kevin Mirallas and Wayne Rooney only escaping a yellow card, Chris Gunter getting booked for diving (despite it being one of the clearest penalties I’ve ever seen). I could go on…


As I listen to one radio station now, they’re discussing Rooney’s kick out at Jordan Mutch. They believe if it was the other way round, the Cardiff player would have been sent walking. Like the West Brom decision, there is no doubt fans believe big players and big clubs get the big decisions.

So, how can we get more consistency in refereeing? I’ve heard and read hundreds of solutions, but here are just a few I find the most interesting:

Technology: after countless column inches and thousands of calls on football phone-ins, we finally got goal-line technology. But is that enough? Many now believe that we need a ‘video ref’ so that decisions that could result in a red card or a penalty can be reviewed. The main worry is how it will slow the game down. I’m just worried how far we’ll take the technology. The great thing about football is the way it flows, so do we really want to lose that?

Challenges: this one comes as a result of the above. Taken from tennis, each manager gets a number of challenges on any of the referees decisions. This would be a huge change to the game we love, but many fans believe that this will stop managers outing referees following the game. They might just be on to something there…

Referees doing a post-match interview: one of the most popular suggestions, but I don’t think this is fair. It’s not like we’re going to speak to them if there’s been no incidents. They’ll just be dragged out to be questioned on the one everyone thinks they got wrong. Also, what other sports can you name in which referees come out after the event?

Mic’d up referees: a suggestion from Gary Neville in his Daily Mail column. He believes that they should be mic’d up so we can hear why and how they’ve made the decisions. It works in American Football and Rugby, but we all know football fans are a different breed. It will also give referees a louder voice (literally), and there’s plenty that already think they’re the stars of the show. I personally think the best officials are the ones you don’t notice. However, I do think this would highlight the way footballers and referees talk to each other and will bring some clarity to cases like the Mark Clattenburg one last season.


I believe that we need to know why and how the referees reach the decisions that they make, but I’m still yet to hear a suggestion on how this will work to compliment the way the game is played and viewed. We need to stop getting on the referees back, otherwise how are we going to inspire the next generation of officials? To reference an old cliché: you can’t play a game without a referee.