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Refereeing standards are causing concern

Joel Taggart | 17:22 UK time, Friday, 2 April 2010

It was the result that those in the corridors of footballing power in Northern Ireland did not want - Loughgall 1 Newry City 1. I suppose after waiting six weeks for the game to be played, three more days was not going to make that much difference.

It is just a pity that those who look after the disciplinary procedures at the Irish Football Association are not blessed with the same levels of efficiency as their colleagues who have sorted out the fixture congestion the weather caused in our Premier League schedule, and that those deciding what to do with Larne and Newry caused to this year's Irish Cup.

Dixie Robinson was sent-off at Windsor Park.jpg

Those wise old heads, unable to take swift and decisive action over the scenes of shame in the Newry and Larne Irish Cup clash, did manage to find the time to hand Dungannon Swifts boss Dixie Robinson a six, yes a six-match suspension for the unforgivable crime of taking his coat off in frustration at a questionable decision by a referee and throwing it towards the dugout.

Most of the bans handed out after the Newry v Larne boxing match were not for as many as six matches. The disciplinary system here is a laughing stock and no wonder.

I have resisted for many weeks the temptation to criticise referees when it comes to this blog. I know most of the guys, they are good people who go out and try to do their very best in difficult circumstances.

But I am increasingly alarmed at the sheer number of bad decisions and mistakes that are directly effecting, or could have the potential to decide, the outcome of matches here this season. The bad decisions result in understandable frustrations from managers and players that lead to unjust bans and suspensions.

The list is becoming increasingly long. Matt Burrows takes a dive in the box against Ballyclare Comrades, penalty is awarded and costs Ballyclare Comrades a replay. At least the referee Keith Halliday, just like Colin Burns who wrongly sent off Michael Collins at Seaview recently, admitted the mistake.

But what about the others? Crusaders v Linfield in the Shield final, awful tackle directly in front of the fourth official is missed, Linfield break and score what could have been a winning goal.

Linfield v Coleraine in the 4-2 league thriller, Coleraine striker Richard Gibson is standing off the pitch as Stephen Carson hits a shot, goalkeeper saves it but Gibson walks back onto the pitch and the back post and scores. Referee and assistant award the goal.

Portadown v Cliftonville, Peter Hutton knocks the ball back to the goalkeeper with his thigh/knee. Referee decides to give an indirect free-kick for a back pass and only the intervention by his assistant saves total embarassment.

Cliftonville v Glentoran, exactly the same thing happens involving Peter Hutton again only this time the referee refuses to change his mind and the result is an absolute farce. Thankfully Glentoran did not score, but if they had done, I have no doubt that Hutton (already on a yellow card) would have been sent-off for his natural complaints, his manager Eddie Patterson probably would have followed, and then those wise heads at the IFA disciplinary committee could hand out a few more jail sentences, despite the fact that those that they were punishing, in this hypothetical case, would actually have been quite right.

It is interesting to see how a list of all those players and managers suspended is sent out to the media by the IFA and yet when a manager or player happens to win an appeal, no such information is forthcoming.

To be fair, it does not happen often. The odds are so heavily stacked against managers and players when they do go to appeal that most of them now think it is not even worth the effort. Just ask Davy O'Hare or Stephen Baxter.

Unfair pressure is placed on officials by those at Windsor Avenue who take pleasure in handing out suspensions.

Effectively they work from the assumption that referees never make a mistake and therefore the referee's report and his verdict is gospel.

So for example, when Keith O'Hara is accused of violent conduct, and the player that he is alleged to have landed a head-butt on provides written evidence to the contrary, the disciplinary panel read the letter, ignore it and ban O'Hara for six matches. Just as well he did not take his coat off like poor old Dixie.

I know many people have asked the question over the years 'who would be a referee?'

On the basis of what they have to put up with, I would ask a different question. Who would be a manager?


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