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Cut the men in black some slack

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Steve Wilson | 14:27 UK time, Monday, 16 January 2012

I'm not sure that there is a European president, a cabinet minister or a city banker anywhere who is doing a tougher job under more critical scrutiny just now than Premier League referees.

Every weekend there is a catalogue of evidence made up of slow-motion, frame-by-frame replays to prove that the men in black are becoming less adept at applying the laws of the game appropriately. Managers criticise them, players swear at them, fans lambast them and the press hammer them. Even some of their former colleagues supplement their income by joining the throng.

How often have you heard people demand both "common sense" and "consistency" in the same sentence? Have a think about that one.

What is actually meant by a referee using common sense? As far I can see it is suggesting that a referee should see each decision within the context of the game; therefore not necessarily applying the absolute letter of the law. For example, we have all heard that a referee has ruined a game by sending off a player too early for a borderline challenge that he could have punished with a yellow card.

OK, so let's say we allow the referees some flexibility - but then don't expect consistency - because each ref will be applying his "common sense" in a slightly different way.

I get to spend a considerable chunk of my weekends hanging around in tunnels of various football grounds and almost always end up having a chat with the referees as they arrive. What I am never allowed to do, at least on the record, is to chat after the game.

We do often speak afterwards though. Some of the refs will ask you confidentially what you thought about a decision; some have even asked to have another look at a decision on a TV monitor in a quiet room away from the bustle of the tunnel.

Obviously they do not walk off the pitch absolutely convinced that they have got every single call right. What I am absolutely certain about, though, that no referee who has reached the top of their profession has made a call that they cannot defend given what they saw at the time.

The problem is that 10 people will see a decision 10 different ways. Here's an example from Saturday's game between Chelsea and Sunderland. Fernando Torres was booked after going down in the Sunderland box after a challenge by Phil Bardsley.

Chelsea striker Fernando Torres

Chelsea striker Fernando Torres was booked for simulation on Saturday - but should he have been given a penalty? Photo: Getty Images

My first reaction, as I saw it in real time, was that it looked like a penalty. Then I saw the replay, and I felt that, although there was contact, Torres was ready to fall if Bardsley gave him anything to fall over. The players' knees collided; the question was who was initiating the contact?

In the press room afterwards one of football's most distinguished newspaper men, Patrick Barclay, said that he felt it was not a penalty but that the yellow card for Torres was unnecessary. On Match of the Day that night, Alan Shearer was absolutely convinced that it should have been a penalty. I am still not certain.

My point is clear. There are three different views on the same incident, all formed by reasonable experienced people and with the benefit of replays; which the referee, Phil Dowd, didn't have.

This could take us into a discussion of video replays. I think I'll leave that for another day, aside from saying that I am not in favour.

I would also not be in favour of referees being allowed to talk to the cameras after the game. If they did they might undermine their authority by having to attempt to defend a clear mistake and if they chose not to talk it would be something that would surely be interpreted as an admission of an error.

They are not perfect, but who is? I do think that their fitness tests could be more rigorous, but I passionately believe that our refs are honest and give decisions based only what they see, or think they see.

On the whole they might make fewer errors in 90 minutes than many of the players they are refereeing. And what about the managers who knock them? How many times have you heard those same managers say they didn't even see a major incident?

Now who needs their eyes testing?


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  • Comment number 1.

    Where did this all stem from?

    The shocking decision to send Nenad Milijas off at Emirates a few weeks ago! Never a foul, never a booking, never mind a red!

    Also a massive, MASSIVE, part of the blame lies in the "new" breed of fans that want a free-kick every time 2 players come together!

    I'm quickly falling out of love with football!

  • Comment number 2.

    Totally agree,

    Using common sense to judge a situaion will mean the ref has to interpret each case/foul individually.

    Therefore, if we want common sense we wont get consistency!! Grey areas are open to interpretations

  • Comment number 3.

    football has become a non-contact sport. i blame arsene wenger

  • Comment number 4.

    Pundits, when discussing penalty decisions, have become obsessed with 'contact'. We watch frame by frame as a player, often already on his way to ground, gets the faintest of brushes off an others shin before we hear "THERE, contact. Definite pen."

    What? Since when was that the rule.

  • Comment number 5.

    rafiq424 really why?

  • Comment number 6.

    I can't see why the referee's aren't allowed to look at a replay?

    So what if it slows the game down, it sure slows it down when 20 footballers surround the referee and shout their point of view.

    It'll eradicate human error to a huge degree and make football a less controversial sport.

  • Comment number 7.

    As a former Referee,this article is about the first sensible one to have appeared!
    How many of these so called 'experts' or pundits have ever read the Rules or Referee's Chart?
    They also lose sight of the fact that the ref. only gets a split second to see the incident & make a decision. TV subsequently provide coverage in close up from numerous angles,so is it any wonder peoples views differ?
    Apart from the possibility of goal line technology,why don't people just accept that the referee's decision is final & made in good faith.
    It's a wonder anyone ever wants to become Referee!

  • Comment number 8.

    Spurs fan here, as you may be able to guess. Over the course of this season Spurs have lost 5 points due to poor refereeing decisions, that I can name off the top of my head. Against Wolves only this weekend, Adebayor scored but it was disallowed for offside when he was at least a yard onside. Much the same thing happened against Stoke, which Spurs lost with the aid of a Peter Crouch handball that went unnoticed by the referee. With these extra points that should have been Spurs', they would now be top of the league, even if Man City had ground out that draw against Sunderland when Ji Dong-Won was offside for the winner.

    At the tail-end of last season Spurs lost to Chelsea after conceding two goals from offside positions. With those extra 3 points that should legally have been Spurs', they would have qualified for the Champions' League and the massive revenue that goes with it.

    And this is just from my team. I'm sure every fan out there has a long list of important decisions that have been given wrongly and have cost their team. I still haven't forgotten Pedro Mendes scoring from the halfway line at Old Trafford only for the linesman to deem that the ball hadn't crossed the goal-line, which everyone else in the stadium could see that it had.

    Premier League referees do an incredibly difficult job under extreme pressure, but that should not give them freedom from accountability. If mistakes are made, they should be acknowledged. And for God's sake, why can we not introduce a simple little element of video refereeing, even if it's only for goals and red cards? Give the man in black a little help, because anything to make his job easier should be welcomed.

    On a related note, too many red cards are being shown. I do wish the game would return to real tackling. If the rules had been this stringent when I was a kid, I would have been sent off most weeks. Let the players play the game properly.

  • Comment number 9.

    Spot-on Steve. Unfortunately we can't have both. You'd also probably find that it would greatly depend on what has happened to their particular club recently as to which way fans would rather see it go.

    For example. I'm sure most Man City fans would have said common sense after the FA Cup game, however, if you'd asked them after the Liverpool game, they'd have wanted consistency.

    Personally I think that if you went down a strict consistency route then the number of cards would increase and nobody really wants that. I'd say common sense and take the rough with the smooth.

  • Comment number 10.

    I've always been amused by those two recurring refrains - "Consistency" and "Common Sense". When a managers says "Show some common sense" he means "Let our offence go unpunished". When he says "All we're asking for is some consistency" he means "Punish the other side's offence".

  • Comment number 11.

    Whilst I agree Referees should not be pilloried in front of the camera I do think they could come and answer a limited number of questions (say no more than 2 or 3) and the interviewer should not be allowed to re-question the Referees answer.

  • Comment number 12.

    I have some sypmathy with refs, they do a tough job, but it is a job and they do get paid for it, therefore you would expect the majority of calls to be correct. In the Spurs Stoke game, Chris Foy got many decisions wrong which cost us 3 valuable points. Chris Foy has had a very bad season and should be judged on the evidence of his poor decisions, as any one of us would be if we constantly under-performed at our jobs.

  • Comment number 13.

    "What is actually meant by a referee using common sense? As far I can see it is suggesting that a referee should see each decision within the context of the game; therefore not necessarily applying the absolute letter of the law."

    this is all that is needed. if you stick to rules made by those who dont have a proper understanding of the game then it can only be a nuissance.

    at the end of the day there is only a handful of rules needed for a game of football. not textbooks full.

  • Comment number 14.

    Harry Hotspur - you can't have it both ways - last year @ Wolves Hutton should have been sent off for stopping a goalscoring opportunity - you probably wouldn't have got the point that you did get.

    Wolves have had shocking decision after shocking decision - the worst thing about the Milijas red was not the fact it was given, but the fact it wasn't overturned when reviewed.

  • Comment number 15.

    Great article, it would also be interesting to see some pundits held accountable for their often ridiculous comments and views!
    The thing to remember is how often people say " My initial thought was - " and then change their opinion well that’s surely the point - referees do only get one initial thought and view and have to react upon these, everything in hindsight as the saying goes!

  • Comment number 16.

    The refs do a fair shift and yet are subjected to a bunch of whinging managers and players none of whom are 'consistent' in their criticism: they only moan about aspects of the game such as simulation when it happens to them and not the other way around.

    Human error is art and part of the game, and that includes the refs. In Scotland we have to deal with Old Firm paprnoia syndrome: when things are not going right for one half officialdom conspiracy theories emerge very quickly to explain how the refs are conspiring against them. Two big clubs who have won everything in the game: you couldn't make it up. Well you could and every season people do!

  • Comment number 17.

    Spot on. Contradictory to expect "consistency" and "common sense". Even when refs such as Foy show "consistency" - not a fan of two footed tackles, red cards in Chelsea v QPR, Man utd v Man City, people still complain.

    think they need to bring in video replays, some form of help. But even then it is ultimately subjective interpretation and you will always have differences in opinion.

  • Comment number 18.

    That should read Old Firm 'paranoia' syndrome in case the spelling police are on!

  • Comment number 19.


    spot on mate

    i hate when they say he is "entitled" to go down when brushed as you say. these are the comments that are driving out the contact in the sport.


    i disagree, football is based on human judgement and has been for over 1 hundred years so leave it alone. maybe in rugby where half the game is stopped anyway.

  • Comment number 20.

    Very good starting paragraph!

    There is a solution in the refereeing problem. It's called "welcome to the 21st century and use video technology". Then again, it collides with tradition.

    I couldn't stop lauhing today when I read Wenger (Mr Didn't See It aka Mr Prove It) was adamant about the Swansea penalty.

    The oldest cliche in the Premier League is "by the end of the season, things even out". It's there for a reason.

    Until video technology is introduced to top-level football, I feel, referees have to be god-like to be 100% precise on every decision.

  • Comment number 21.



  • Comment number 22.

    Who'd be a ref?

    Most players seem to try and cheat. Perhaps if they didn't that would help ref's.

    Players moan that ref's have never played the game. Well, have players ever ref'd matches?

    All players comments are necessarily biased so what makes them a better judge than ref's?

    Players, managers, pundits and journalists alike seem to struggle with the rules so perhaps they should sort themselves out first before moaning about the man in the black.

  • Comment number 23.

    14. At 17:11 16th Jan 2012, Jabbaonthebeeb wrote:
    Harry Hotspur - you can't have it both ways - last year @ Wolves Hutton should have been sent off for stopping a goalscoring opportunity - you probably wouldn't have got the point that you did get.


    Hmm, I had forgotten about that. Selective memory in action! Anyway, the point remains. If one incorrect refereeing decision can potentially cost a club millions of pounds, that suggests a need for review of the system.

    @19: Alan Shearer is particularly guilty of that phrase in my experience. "Entitled to go down" is like saying it's OK to cheat.

  • Comment number 24.

    #23 Harry Hotspur

    If one incorrect refereeing decision can potentially cost a club millions of pounds, that suggests a need for review of the system.
    Actually, I think it suggests that money has become too important a factor.

  • Comment number 25.

    @#8 - I'm a Spurs fan too...and while I was incensed by those decisions (3 against Stoke and 2 forgot the corner that wasn't) I also acknowledge that we probably get away with more that we get penalised for. I can think of 10 goals we scored last season which shouldn't have been and I can think of 2 goals that were disallowed for offside when they weren't. In another universe all those goals may have gone in and it would be exactly the same as it is now.

  • Comment number 26.

    here's a thought, look at windass saying he had nothing to get up for in the morning. why dont retired players become officials?

  • Comment number 27.

    They do a great job considering the speed of the game and the amount of cheating. I'd like to see some of the managers players and fans who give them grief do the job, they wouldn't last five minutes most of them.

  • Comment number 28.


    beat me to it

  • Comment number 29.

    Also...I think Assou-Ekotto has got away with 3 hand balls in the penalty area so far this season...

  • Comment number 30.

    #26 Meido

    It's a good idea.

    Of course, some of them prefer to cushy old boys network that is punditry. Not all of them though, so perhaps they could be encouraged to don the ref's outfit.

    Better still, what about out of work managers having a go?

  • Comment number 31.

    Every fan of every team can complain about decisions being wrong, it's annoying but it's understandable. Referees have a split second to make a decision in a world where players attempt to get opponents sent off. It's hardly suprising some decisions are wrong. Whilst it will help in certain situations, video replays still won't get 100% of decisions right.

  • Comment number 32.

    Football is killing itself.....and these pundits/ex pro's spouting their views are helping to kill it.....The referee has an impossible task...letting a game flow that involves cheating, 2 footed lunges, petulant players, Managers & fans who seem to think that the game should only go their way......The referee's should fight back and start getting together and enforcing the laws to the card and yellow cards as soon as any infringement takes place...then lets see who starts moaning once they start having players banned.......I for one would support this!

  • Comment number 33.

    Players, managers, pundits and journalists alike seem to struggle with the rules so perhaps they should sort themselves out first before moaning about the man in the black.

    In Scotland in the past month a bunch of football journalists were put through part of the SFA ref course. The result? Sympathetic articles about the difficulty of the job ans some understanding about the decision manking involved.

    Perhaps they may want to do the same with EPL managers such as Wenger, Fergie and AVB!

  • Comment number 34.

    #33 Rob04

    Wenger just needs to visit SpecSavers!

    Anyway, it sounds like a start as long as they don't revert to type after a couple of weeks of more rational reporting. It needs to be hammered home cause it'll take a while to filter through to everyone.

  • Comment number 35.


    ye it's much easier to watch 50 replays slowed down to give there "expert view" i suppose.

    ye managers too.

    zola would look great in black ; )

  • Comment number 36.

    Until refs admit they need help,they will keep making poor decisions.I would be happy with consistency,no two refs give the same decision, even retired ref disagree.What hope is there?

  • Comment number 37.

    There are two points that I think are key here.

    1. There seems to be an increasing number of critical decisions being made that are blatantly wrong. No one expects the refs to be right all the time, but some decisions seem to be made with their eyes wide shut!

    2. What upsets everyone involved in the game more than anything is the total lack of consistency in how infringements are penalised. There is no excuse for this and it should be the same the world over.

    What also irritates me is that the referees apparently don't make errors or, at least, there are never any apologies for them. A little humility would go a long way. Again, no one expects them to be right all the time, but an apology after the game would certainly lead to refs being held in higher regard.

    Remember, respect has to be earned, it's no ones by right.

  • Comment number 38.

    There is a good way to help referee not to make mistakes: do not break the rules, and you do not get in trouble. This way, we see better games, nobody lose and nobody win and everybody is happy. Referees do have, though, a big responsibility in players’ behaviour on the pitch: if they applied the law to the letter (non matter what), players would understand by now that they cannot do otherwise, and, as a result, we would see less yellow and red cards. Players have another good way to help referees: they should stop trying to trick referees into mistakes by, for instance, systematically raising they hands to claim a throwing for their team all the times, even when it is evident that it is a throw for the other team (they are not even ashamed of being caught cheating by the camera).

  • Comment number 39.

    In this day and age of entertainment statistics has anyone thought to do an empirical study over the course of a season of how many points could have been lost or gained depending on the turn of each contentious decision?

    As #25 pointed out to #8, "what about the corner you forgot"....could (would) lead to as many points dropped as gained if the decision(s) went the 'correct' way...

    I bet it would pretty much even out....

  • Comment number 40.

    I have a slight gripe with the term "common sense" meaning inconsistency. Surely "common" sense is a standard definition of sensibility "common" to everyone, so two different referees should come to the same "common sense" conclusion of the same incident.

  • Comment number 41.

    24 actually I think it fails to accept all the other incorrect decisions from everybody concerned that occur over a 38 match season.

    32 interesting idea - can only be a matter of time before footballers are using fake blood

    on using replays for refereeing decisions, the whole idea is absolutely ridiculous because as has been said 10 people can watch the same thing and come up with 10 different interpretations. now admittedly if you use the current array of TV pundits such as Alan Shearer droning on and on and on and saying absolutely nothing, or Robbie Savage who doesn't even know that he's called a commentator apparently, then that would be largely a problem of braincell deficiency. But even so, the point is that no matter how many of the replays available to a referee at the side of the pitch show what you want them to show there will always be others that appear to show something different to that - and none of them will likely show what either the referee or the linesman actually saw from the same angle anyway.

  • Comment number 42.

    The ref cost my team 3 points????? Surly your teams inability to put the ball in the back of net more times then the other team is the reason for defeat. But hey its a much more easy/selfish option to blame the man in the middle.

    Oh, and as a rugby fan I can tell that if you google a IRB ref by the name of Bryce Lawrence you will see video technology still isn't always the answer.

  • Comment number 43.

    In the recent Sunderland , Everton game Howard Webb gave a penelty because he had no doubt that Lee Cattermole kicked / caught Osman as he was about to shoot. Because, if there was any doubt he would not have given the decision unless of course refs now give decision on the fact of probability. We now know that Osman actually kicked the ground and no Sunderland player made contact with him.Why shoudn't we expect Webb to come out and explain what he saw, is it because he would make himself look a fool by saying I gave it because I SAW it when all joe public no he couldnt't have seen it because it didn't actually happen

  • Comment number 44.

    Refs will make mistakes that is fair enough.

    However with that said when the referees report into the Luis Suarez and Evra situation can just happen to very convieniantly 'go missing' then I think it's time that serious questions are asked.

    Make no mistake, If it can happen in Serie A it can certainly happen in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 45.

    The main problem for refs IS all the videos player over and over again after the games. Nearly all the tackles shown like Milijas, Kompany, Johnson's all in normal speeds look dangerous, its not until it slowed down you can see what really happened.

    Add that to players complaining, occasion and Home turf you are going to get alternative decisions. Take the World Cup final game for example, there should of been at least 3/4 red cards but Howard Webb for trying to make the occasion what it was meant to be by keeping everyone one on pitch, which subsequently got him accused of poor refereeing! They can't win.

    Technology is only ever shouted about when it effects a big team, as United fan I know we get a lot of luck on decisions, and although goal line technology would be easy and not slow the game, what is the point of a ref if you ask someone else for all the decisions. And regarding the Spurs fans saying they have potentially lost 5 points on decision, I am sure there has been an offside goal or foul not given and spurs scored more than once this season. I can think of one the so called foul that lead to Pavy's goal against Rubin Kazan.

  • Comment number 46.

    Good article.
    Full disclosure - I am a referee, (28 years), at a level slightly lower than the EPL.
    My suggestion for the managers, players and pundits who criticise referees is: get out there and do some refereeing and show us how easy it is and how you can be 100% accurate. And when you fail, you will have gained some perspective.
    Absolute consistency is not going to happen. We are dealing with humans who are not perfect, and have to make split second decisions. It is all about angles and distance. The way I put it is that when you are out there you can see the whites of their eyes. In other words you can often tell if the player was genuinely going for the ball or the player. Which is why similar looking tackles can result in yellow, red or nothing. It is not inconsistency, just that no two things are exactly the same, and no two referees will ever see things in exactly the same way.
    One comment mentioned the tackle of Wolves player Milias. The referee concerned, Attwell, had just had a ridiculous red card for Bolton overturned, so the authorities were not going to overturn another. Attwell was promoted early, and while a decent referee does not quite have it for the top level, but it seems the refereeing powers that be are unwilling to be proved wrong.

  • Comment number 47.

    #26 Meido

    Would that be such a good idea? Take Dean Windass for example.

    He is such a journeyman now that it would probably preclude him from officiating in matches involving all of his previous clubs or their greatest rivals. Therein lies the problem with ex footballers becomming refs and inevitable accusations flying re past loyalties etc.

  • Comment number 48.

    45 tbh I think it's just as often the other way around - showing an incident in real time often gives the truist view of what really happened.

  • Comment number 49.

    A high proprtion of pens come from dives. Its disgusting and ruining football. There will never be 'consistency' which is what these dimwitted pundits call for. Refs are human and there will never be a commonality of decision making at every stadium on any given day. The game needs to stamp out diving and playacting and then pens will become as rare as they used to be, thus relieving refs of a lot of pressure. Give refs power to penalise cheats. Its far too long overdue.

  • Comment number 50.

    @ 40 - You're right in that "common sense" should be a standard that is by definition, common, however you forget that it is an unwritten standard and one that often allows for a wide range of interpretations. The Torres penalty appeal is a good example of multiple conclusions that one could arrive at for one particular event, all would fall in the common sense bin.

    As for consistency, I have learnt to only hope a ref is consistent during the game. If he sets a standard based on his "common sense" then the least he can do is just stick with it.

  • Comment number 51.

    44 so you're saying it's the referee's fault that Suarez told Evra that he kicked him because he is black? yeah okay pal.

  • Comment number 52.

    Check out this website, then tell me Arsenal's decisions balance out, and Stoke City?

  • Comment number 53.

    Great article. I have been playing and watching football for over 50 years and it is a disgrace to see the quamire that the game has descended into. Players act as if they have been shot by a sniper at the slighetst touch, then get up and run like gazelles 20 seconds later, after they have had a yellow or red card flashed against an opposing player. And thene there is the sickening and disgusting waving of the imaginary card by players in an attempt to influence the refs.

    The refs should give a yellow card, every time, yes every time, to a player waving an imaginary card in an attempt to influence his decision.

    And the incessant whining by the talking heads who provide commentary only adds to the discontent at refs. They repaly, and replay, and replay incidence and dissect them until they can either condemn or support the refs decisions.

    Enough already!!!

    Yes, I have seen decisions gone against the team I support, but make no misatke, there other times when decisions that clearly were wrong have benefited my team.

    It is useless to tabulate the different incidents that one can use to support their opinion that refs make wrong calls against the team you support, because someone else can just as easily provide evidence of wrong decisions that were in favour of your team.

    And what about this "Respect campaign"? Where did it go? Why do players constantly swear and lamblast the decisions of match officials whenever the disagree with the call?

    All this talk about "consistency" and "coomon sense" by the game pundits is hogwash; baloney. Why don't they use their common sense and be consistent in their commentary?

  • Comment number 54.

    #53, SaracenBlade,

    excellent reading!

  • Comment number 55.

    It is not plausible to stop the game and use videos to decide whether or not a foul has been committed or the severity of that foul because there are so many fouls. if you say only serious fouls or serious decisions will be checked out then what happens to the fouls that the referee still misses? these influence the course of the game at least as much, after all.

    Maybe line calls could be reviewed, such as offsides. But again, you need cameras exactly in line with the last defender, and you need an absolutely foolproof method of determining precisely at what split second the ball has been deemed to have been played forward as well - neither of these two things are currently available to TV as far as I know, never mind available in a matter of seconds at touchside.

    Also, anyone watching the gridiron last night will have seen two or three incidents that were referred to the video ref which came back with very curious decisions. What is to say that this wouldn't happen in football as well - and leave us arguing about the video referee, his family origins, the team his dad supports, the Liverpool teddy bear he keeps under his pillow etc etc. And anyway, football doesn't stop as soon as every pass is complete, or every time a player is tackled.

    The whole referee debate can be summed up with a couple incidents in my view. Firstly there's the Suarez incident, where viewers swear blind that he didn't do anything wrong, almost oblivious to the notion that their TV window hadn't actually given them all the information to make such a conclusion - the commission watched loads of footage that wasn't broadcast to the public at all. Secondly, there's the Norway penalty at the 1998 world cup that beat Brazil and so knocked Scotland out - TV said it was a dive and the media went big on the need for video replays. Then a day or two later new footage emerged from scandanavia that clearly showed that it was in fact a correct refereeing decision. Had the original broadcast footage been used then the penalty decision may have been overturned, even though the referee had clearly seen that it was a penalty. Thirdly, on offside - everyone probably has a favoured example, but mine is this: in the 02/03 season United went to Highbury in a crunch late season head-to-head. Arsenal came from behind with a blatantly offside goal and but for a Giggs equaliser would've won the match and probably the title. As it was, after the match all anybody wanted to talk about in the media was that Sol Campbell had been sent off for elbowing Solskjaer in the face and poor hard done to Arsenal would now have to play a match or two without him.

    As for rugby, I can still see David Campese deliberately knocking on i the 1991 world cup final and no penalty try being awarded. Yeah, let's take the lead from rugby :rolleyes:

  • Comment number 56.

    The goal line is the only place where video technology makes sense. Those who advocate it for off sides, red cards etc. don't seem to realise that it would call for a fundamental re write of the laws. For example, if a forward is flagged off side and it is found to be a wrong decision, how do you re start the game and still give the attacker the advantage he had in the first place? The answer lies with the players. Most of them are cheats and con men.

  • Comment number 57.

    52: The neutral, I think over a long enough period with equally good teams it would even itself out but that website even states it's not to be taken seriously. What I love is when people quote one aspect of a game that would have changed and follow that through with we would have won 1 0 (no penalty etc), well no as nothing after that point would have been the same!

    More support should be given to refs and acceptance that they will get things wrong. Without them we wouldn't have a game.

  • Comment number 58.

    @Harry Hotspur

    "they would now be top of the league, even if Man City had ground out that draw against Sunderland when Ji Dong-Won was offside for the winner."

    That is just ridiculous, to be able to say Tottenham would be on top would mean that no other of the top teams had any referee decision going against them. In fact I think City have more to complain about when it comes to referees than Tottenham.

  • Comment number 59.

    Why do all the tv pundits blame the refs when its quite clearly diving & cheating by the majority of players that cause the problems. The players are to blame not the refs. The managers only complain when the decisions go against them, never when their players dive and get the free kicks or penalties. Footaballers are going to kill the golden goose if they carry on in this mannner.

  • Comment number 60.

    I completely disagree with your point that referees shouldn't have to talk to cameras after a match. If they have made a controversial decision then shouldn't they explain their decision instead of walking down the tunnel to verbal abuse from angry fans who are wondering why the ref has just cost them the match?

    Making bad decisions ends up undermining their authority because managers/players/fans know that this ref is incompetent and that this could solved very easily by bringing in video technology. The only standing argument against it is that it slows down the game, but so does six or seven players surrounding the ref after he disallowed a perfectly good goal.

  • Comment number 61.

    On Arsenal yesterday, Wenger is as ever quick to blame the referee for the penalty. Not seen replays myself but looked like a trip at the time, but anyway, what about the mistake his keeper made? It was hardly a great penalty, and was also completely predictable - Sinclair had put all 3 previous penalties in exactly that position. And yet the Arsenal keeper for some unknown reason showed all the technique of a Vincent Kompany tackle in his dive. If he hadn't made that bizarre shift forward before attempting his dive he would easily have reached the ball and probably would've saved it. The penalty award was perhaps debateable, but the error that cost the goal was made by the goalkeeper.

  • Comment number 62.

    Refs have always been the most hated man on the pitch by the age old football tradition. 9 times out ten players dont get along withe refs. In the prem won't be anything different. The main issue here should technology be brought in. I thin no, i think its an exciting part of the game for Refs to get decisions wrong, and that adds to the spice of post match interviews.

    Football does need to find the right balance between malicious intent and dangerous tackles ect, and be dealt with accordingly but what most fans, players clubs, managers ect want is consistency. But human beings cant always be consistent and thats just part of life and football.

    Refs will always get some stick, always have done always will do.

    So let it just be the way it is but with fewer cards shown.

  • Comment number 63.

    I played a Sunday league game yesterday and there was 4 or 5 two footed lunges throughout the game along with many other reckless challenges. The referee, a lad no older than 18, could of sent off 5 or 6 players off during the game. He knew that if he went for 'consistency' then both teams would of ended with 8 players and would of have been a poor game. But because he didnt, the game was very entertaining and there wasnt many complaints from the players.

    This shows that consistency may be the letter of the law, but could potentially ruin top games of football.

  • Comment number 64.

    60 that isn't the only argument against it though. which decisions are reviewed? who decides which officials will review them? which camera angle is deemed to be the most important? etc etc etc

  • Comment number 65.

    I think we need to look at the old school managers and their response to their players berating referees - There is no figure like Bill Nicholson, who told his players that they would all make more mistakes during the course of the afternoon than the referee, or Brian Clough, who once instructed Stuart Pearce to wait in the tunnel for the referee to reappear after half-time so that he could apologise for questioning his authority - I would hate to have my every move analysed in slow motion reply at the desk (I move slow enough as it is) - I agree the refs need more help, but it's not their fault they have not got it - Also, in my 20 odd years of watching football, I truly believe that the standard of refs is higher then it's ever been - It's just a case that in this time, there has been a lot more coverage of each minute detail of the game, leading to their every decision being scrutinised

  • Comment number 66.

    Money has corrupted football - winning means everything. It's supposed to be a sport, played by professionals. Not much evidence of sportsmanship or professionalism is displayed - every corner/goal-kick is contested as are the throw ins. Cheating is prevalent - slightest contact and players fall over as if pole-axed. The behaviour at corners is apalling and impossible for the referes to control. Given this situation, managers see what they want to see and do nothing to curb the indiscipline in their teams - they're like kids in a school playground and not much wonder, most of the players have never grown up. before criticising referees they should put their own houses in order. It really is like a lack of parental control and then expecting the teacher to put it right - they're pathetic.

  • Comment number 67.

    Personally, my issue is specifically with sendings-off. Penalty decisions, free-kicks, off-sides - it's all swings and roundabouts. But the view that the Premier League referees seem to be taking on sendings-off simply cannot be defended in my opinion. You'd almost think they were seeking-out controversy by making decisions they simply don't have to make. Common sense is ruling that Yakubu, a centre-forward making a clumsy tackle for a bouncing ball is NOT trying to hurt Danny Murphy with such malice that he needs to be removed from the game.

  • Comment number 68.

    I'd say referees do a pretty decent job actually, although obviously mistakes will be made. The thing is, if a referee operates at the top level and consistently messes up then it's pretty clear that they won't be at the top for long- I seem to remember Clattenburg being under quite a lot of pressure last season for a string of dodgy decisions. As the article points out, making referees come out at the end of the game and confront the cameras or something similar will only have the effect of undermining them, which in turn will affect their on field authority and ability to control a game- bear in mind that if a referee gives a foul, red or yellow card it's usually pretty obvious why he's done it, even if he is mistaken. As such, the ONLY additional benefit of them coming out afterwards is to have that decision criticised publicly, which will happen anyway in the papers and on boards such as this- it is completely misleading for people to claim it would be to 'explain' the decision when we all know if, for example, a ref gives a penalty its because he thinks there was a foul in the box, he obviously isn't going to come out and 'explain' that the moon was in the seventh house, leo was rising and he had seen a crow fly thrice around the stretford end, a clear sign that the old gods demanded sacrifice and so he had no choice but to award a penalty.

    As for video technology, if there is a debatable decision to be had over a goal then it should be used, but only in those situations. I get the impression people seem to think rugby uses it all the time, this is wrong- aside from point scoring situations it is incredibly rare to see video technology used, the referee relies on his own eyes and his linesmen, just the same as in football. Every now and again it will be used for yellow or red cards but that is few and far between (just ask sam warburton). It works in rugby, it can work in football- if there is any possibility a goal should or shouldn't be given then it is worth the 30 second wait.

  • Comment number 69.

    Mr Foy, has influenced every game that he his refereed this season, not once has the influence been for the good of the game.

  • Comment number 70.

    Most of these problems could be overcome by the use of instant replays.
    Any player should be able to demand an instant replay of disputed decisions.
    If false challenges were punished with a yellow card, the game wouldn't be slowed down at all.

  • Comment number 71.

    Good read Steve and I think your views are well thought out. Refs make mistakes and while they continue to be human beings that will always be the case. I am sure being able to chat with some of the refs at games gives you a useful reminder of what it is like to see things from their point of view. Football is all about opinions and I suppose arguing about referees decisions will never go away - even if they got them all right.

    I'm sure these comments will eventually turn into arguing about who gets the worst decisions or why we don't have goal line technology yet (it doesn't work), but just remember that English refs are pretty good.

  • Comment number 72.

    I've travelled a lot and seen numerous games all over the world. I can say that by some distance we have the best refs in the world.

    Dalglish, Wenger and the like continue to give them a hard time with decisions against but don't see/ignore decisions for. Consistency is a key word here too.

    If a ref doesn't see it (or an assistant) it can't be given. Refs have the one view that no player, fan, armchair or pundit has, the one and only view on which decisions can be made.

  • Comment number 73.

    Another weekend (14/15 Jan) of moans and groans over penalties decisions that, were and weren’t given. Compounded further over yet another issue of ‘dangerous’ tackles that merited ‘red cards and a sending off’ or was that ‘just a yellow card’ that was warranted or perhaps there should have been none at all and, oh was he was only ‘marginally onside or offside’?
    The bashing of league referees seems to be reaching unprecedented levels where they are constantly being vilified by managers and studio pundits alike (TV and radio) with their derisive comments about whether they (sic) are up to the job in hand. I would question them all whether they might do better without the advantage of seeing a replay- often in slow motion and from a variety of angles - of whatever incident they are discussing. Perhaps they are suggesting that there should be an available ‘Third Match Official (TMO)’, as current practice in televised Rugby, who the referee can consult over dubious decisions (assuming that it was seen in the first place!). Maybe these so called ‘experts’ (ex – being a “has been” and a spurt – a “drip under pressure”) would also advocate a complete review of the contentious decisions in a match by a panel of experts where retrospective actions could be taken – perhaps the awarding of belated red and yellow cards, the rescinding of others – will players then be banned or not as the case maybe (assuming the panel are also able to agree as is not always the case as seen on MOtD & Final Score. Is this thinking silly? Yes probably because up and down the country every week matches are being played, at all levels and without the hindsight of camera replays. Decisions may be contested but teams, their managers and players have to get on with it – and so they do!
    Perhaps our pundits could try their hands at refereeing at an amateur level and their decisions recorded, analysed proving how easy it is to criticise from the comfort of the studio. Better still do away the Action replays and the inane self-opinionated chat that these ‘talking heads’ make in an effort to retain their “seats on the bench”. Give me the action every day and perhaps the programmes might just do that in the future without resorting to microscopic examination.
    By the way - where is the FA in backing the ‘Respect’ campaign in what is seemly on an onslaught in questioning the integrity of match officials?

  • Comment number 74.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 75.

    Video should be used to review penalties, red cards, and goals. The game needs not slow down since clearly incorrect decisions are obvious to viewers before the ref pulls a card, a penalty kick is taken, or the game is restarted after a goal.

  • Comment number 76.


    If a ref doesn't see it (or an assistant) it can't be given. Refs have the one view that no player, fan, armchair or pundit has, the one and only view on which decisions can be made.


    Only one problem with that, the most recent example, Torres at the weekend. If he witnessed the incident and he did see it because he made a decision and booked him. Your logic suggests Refs only make decisions on what they see. There was contact and he got it wrong both ways, it was either a penalty or not but never a booking for Torres.

    When referees start making decisions based on what they think happened instead of what they witnessed, then that is far worse than just ignoring the incident because they didn't see it..

  • Comment number 77.

    Managers will always blame the referees so it fools their club's fans into believing it was the refs fault instead of the players/manager. Moan about the 1 possible penalty decision, but ignore the 3 golden opportunities to score your striker missed or the howler the keeper made!

    And the pundits and commentators are overlooking some great football so they can gawk over the refereeing decisions - that is just laziness! Why arent we seeing replays of great football, great saves, or great shots instead of frankly quite boring tackles/offsides??

    As soon as the commentators/managers/pundits stop banging on about it the better.

  • Comment number 78.

    they should just use a challenge system like they have in tennis. Chelsea nearly went out the champions league this season because they were denied stonewall penalties against valencia, twice, and leverkusen, and genk although we were 4-0 up or something at the time so it didnt matter. But the valencia and leverkusen results were dropped points and the referee nearly cost us qualification

  • Comment number 79.

    I have emailed the refs association three times this season for diabolical decision in various games and team non of which I support but no response! I follow Liverpool and and disgsted that Glen Johnson wasn't red carded for his tackle on Lescott in the semi final first leg.

    Furthermore I fully support Paul Jewell's assessment of the officials where Ipswich were denied a clear penalty. The FA are quick to punish players after watching video footage therefore match officials should be held accountable in the same way!

  • Comment number 80.

    This is my first time on the blog but I'm interested in the furore about refs. Two sendings-off recently have annoyed me (that they were both against ManCity is purely coincidental - I support Leeds).
    First Barry against Liverpool. This was one of an increasing number of "offences" where the "perpetrator" has absolutely no involvement in the action; he was standing perfectly still & Agger chose to change direction to run into him. Think how many bookings you have seen this season like that!
    The second is, inevitably, Kompany against ManU. Chris Foy got his decision completely right; he had had a good view, saw that no offence had been commited & played on. Nani also had had a good view & happily played on too. However Rooney thought otherwise, chased after Foy &, apparently, told him he was wrong. I have seen players request refs to consult with their assistants & decisions changed but I have never seen it purely on the recommendation of a player with no other consultation. Presumably Mr. Foy was threatened with the wrath of Sir Alex again if he did not comply; sadly he did not have the courage to stick with what he had seen. The other sad part is that the FA chose not to watch the incident when the appeal was lodged; they would have seen that no offence had been commited & that Mr. Rooney's decision was wrong. This sorry episode has reduced credibility in the jurisdiction of the game & deprived ManCity of a key player for four games for no valid reason.
    Enough for now

  • Comment number 81.

    I know this is all about the premier league but personally I don't have any sympathy with people appealing about not getting red cards overturned when my team (Exeter City) had 2 red cards for fouls in the box that were not fouls let alone red cards! it ruined the game in which we were 1-0 up and ended up losing 5-1.

    But to compile the misery we appealed and neither got overturned! we are a small club and paying £500 for each of the appeals is something we cannot afford and we aren't appealing any red cards again.

  • Comment number 82.

    Gary Neville should've been sent off at least twice last season and yet Utd went on to win the matches in question. Carragher should've been sent off against Utd at Anfield last season and Liverpool won. Refs make mistakes and always have done. It is part of the game and makes boards like this popular. Any ex pro's out there who fancy doing their job? No.....

  • Comment number 83.

    Without question, refs have probably the hardest, high pressure job in football
    However, that;s their job, they chose that career and signed up for everything involved
    They're trained to be at the very top of their profession, so you don't expect them to make many mistakes, just like you wouldn't expect an elite athlete to or any other person at the height of their profession.
    Fair enough, due to the pace of the game and behaviour of players, there will obviously be the occasional mistakes, however, when stonewall decisions are made incorrectly then there is no excuse. They are trained for years to be a top level referee, they're trained to be have good positioning and make split second decisions, they aren't just amateur refs, therefore the vast majority of decisions should be correct.
    I also don't agree with the view of refs not coming on camera. When a referee has just cost a team points due to a poor decision, which may affect a place in Europe/relegation etc. then why shouldn't they come out and explain why they made the decision they did?

  • Comment number 84.

    I can't believe that Wilson has trotted out the old cliché that referees make fewer mistakes than most players do during the course of a game. Tell me - how many referees have 11 people in opposition physically trying to prevent them from doing their job?

    Comment on the standard of refereeing if you have something interesting and new to say but please don't bother if this is the best you can do.

  • Comment number 85.

    As we say every season, it's ok for us spectators we have numerous camera angles to see the infringement, whereas a referee just gets a one second view from one position.

    He has to make a decision based in the minimum amount of information he receives in that split second. We can't expect a referee to get it right every time.


  • Comment number 86.

    The only problems are football fans, managers and players.

    I in no way prefer rugby, but how often do you see rugby players hounding the ref. It's strictly only the captain who's allowed to talk (in the end).

    I'm sick of hearing managers moaning (AW, KD, AF, NW) fans moaning and players getting pretty vile in some cases (manchester united players spring to mind).

    The first editorial i've agreed with. There's too much scum in the game.

  • Comment number 87.

    We could all understand referring decisions much better if there was some kind of fairness. The shock of an away team getting a penalty at Old Trafford, the fact the "Fergie time" has entered the football lexicon shows a systemic bias in favour of the top clubs, especially Manchester United. The media reinforces certain preconceptions about teams too - would Milijas have been sent off if he didn't play for Wolves? Almost certainly not.
    Referees need to stick to the letter of the law or else be fair to ALL teams.

    While I'm at it may I remind MOTD that there are 20 teams in the league, not 6...

  • Comment number 88.

    86 it's probably the first editorial anyone's bothered reading to you

  • Comment number 89.

    I respect the Author for finally bringing this topic up, but don't like the title!

    I'm all for video technology. Time over time again there are reported inconsistencies, and has been going on for far too long. My view is the referees have had their time as the 'only available camera' in the game.

    Decisions in the recent 1-2 seasons have just been ridiculous. The World Cup (Mexicans) the unseen armswing of Rooneys, Fellanis list goes on.

    And whilst all this, the honest, devoted good art of tackling is been battered. Really is appalling, fine it's OK to impose some harshness on the tackles, but wow can't the FA get a balance correct?

  • Comment number 90.

    No doubt the big talking point tonight is going to become the handball at the end, but if you want to ignore Mancini waving the cards around again, and City in panic already in a game at Wigan in Rd 21 (imagine what they're gonna be like in the run-in if the pressure's on!), then look no further than the 20th minute: Zabaleta and McArthur classh, both with foot-up both with studs showing - just like the FA Cup semi-final. And just like then the decision goes in Zabaleta's favour. But unlike that day there's no red card, not even a suggestion of it. No doubt some of you won't have seen it like that... just like sopme of you won't have seen McArthy elbow Barry in the head and thought "I bet we don't hear anything more about that inside six seconds, never mind people still talking about Wayne Rooney 6 months later (and some)...

  • Comment number 91.

    I would favour the use of video technology for major decisions, but unlike in tennis, where each player can make 3 appeals in a match, I would prefer a system whereby a team is only allowed 1 incorrect appeal in a game.

    So if you appeal against the ref's decision to chalk a goal off for offside, only for the video evidence to back up the ref's decision, you've lost the right to any further appeals. However, if the video replay proves the ref was wrong, the decision is overturned and you still have a further chance to appeal.

    That would stop teams appealing key decisions for the sake of it, especially where the decision looks marginal or might be more about the ref's interpretation of an incident rather than a case where the ref has blatantly missed something.

    For example, when Henry handled the ball in setting up France's winner versus Ireland, a number of Irish players could clearly see the blatant handball that the officials missed (or chose to ignore!!). The Irish would have been able to appeal that decision, confident in the knowledge that at least one of the camera angles would have picked it up, and the video panel could have no choice but to chalk the goal off.

    As another example, lets say the ref awards a penalty that the defending team feel is unjust. They would need to think carefully about whether or not to appeal. In a case of blatant simulation, where the defender is absolutely clear that he made no contact at all, then that could be appealed and if the video evidence backs it up, the penalty is rescinded.

    However, where the defender admits he did make contact, but feels the attacker made a meal of things, then it would be risky to appeal, as the video panel are likely to uphold the ref's decision if video evidence proves that contact was made, even if only slight.

    Incidentally, in the first of my penalty examples, if the ref's original decision was not only to award a penalty, but to show a red card to the defender for being last man, not only should the penatly be rescinded, but the attacker should be red carded. I think this would make players think twice about taking dives in the box.

  • Comment number 92.

    I respect referees and never think they should be under so much pressure, but really, football shying away from further help benefits no one, not referees players or fans!

    There'll always be a mistake here and there still anyway, but what's wrong with video replays reducing these errors?

  • Comment number 93.

    Rugby is a game where players had to be outlawed from spear-tackling each other, where deliberate knock-ons are given in world cup finals only if the referee feels like it, where players increasingly feign injury in the tackle, where coaches use fake blood capsules to cheat, where miked up refs play to the galleries, where men gouge each other's eyes out...

    In rugby they swing their arms around and outlaw the trip because it's so dangerous. And then they mock footballers for writhing around despite 90minutes of legs clashing at all angles and all speeds...

    Football learn lessons from rugby? Do me a favour. Refs are big enough posers as it is.

  • Comment number 94.

    Wow ppl need to remember the fact that the ref is a human being, i actually think they're amazing ones at that!!! Even if they make 10 bad calls thats pretty efficient judgement seen as tho players go flying in these days with slide tackles. Iv never understood the stigma behind the two footed tackles, if they're sliding in two footed on the ground like Kompany's infamous tackle in the recent derby game then there's nothing wrong with it. U cant condemn the ref for giving the red card though, thats the rules, two footed tackles are a straight red. I was actually quite surprised about the abuse that Chris Foye got especially from the commentators about the red card, he has to follow his guidelines and rules, if he doesnt, he's not doing his job properly.

    In short, we really shouldnt hound a ref for making decisions that are in full accordance with the law. We should accept the guidelines as they are.

  • Comment number 95.

    Don't have much to add that hasn't already been covered.

    Interesting idea for retired pros to become refs, however for me the main problem is fitness. A ref runs around the same distance during a match as any of the players. Players generally retire for fitness reasons they "just haven't got he legs anymore", so I don't think they'd be able to referee. If they were then they could still be playing football! Also as an earlier poster mentioned they'd be too many clashes with previous clubs/rivals to make it feasible logistically.

  • Comment number 96.

    Fans pay a lot of money to watch games either at the game or on TV. One dodgey decision early on can ruin the game for everyone. I have some real concerns around these early red cards and would like someone to look into the betting intelligence around them. Maybe there is nothing wrong but it would be comforting as a fan to be reassured.

  • Comment number 97.

    Guy at the side with a High Def TV. He see the replay and informs the ref (when the ref requests some technologcal assistance or in cases where the decision would have a big impact on the game). In fact, let the 4th Official do it. They only waste there time in banta with the subs bench anyway. Give him (or, ahem, her) a propper job!!!

  • Comment number 98.

    Corruption in Football.
    Use might think this is far fetched or refuse to believe it but it sure is a possibility just look at Italy and corruption in football. Lets say at the start of the season its already decided who wins the League by the elite, it wouldn't be difficult for referees to fix this. No1 – refs dont get paid they have other jobs as income, so it wouldn't be hard to pay them to make decisions to benefit one team or another and they would except. No -2 referees are never made to explain why they make certain decisions and most of the time the decisions are diabolical. No3 it easy to fool the mases who watch football, just look at the world today we are sold wars and believe everything we see on mainstream tv which happens to be lies.

    The league is in most circumstances won by a margin of about 3 or 4 points to the 2nd placed team or just over that amount. Saying this the refs would only need to make a few decisions to favor the team who are chosen to win the league and make decisions against the team whom they may be playing. Also the refs would only need to make a few decisions against the nearest rivals against the teams the may be playing on the same weekend. For example look at Manchester United who have dominated English football, How many penalties have been given against them at old trafford or even away from home? Even clear penalty decisions that any person would give, refs refuse to give them. Why is this?, then look at how many penalties they receive in there favor compared to there rivals, even when it is clear to viewing public it wasn't a penalty or was a penalty to the opposition and for people to say it equals out at the end of the season is wrong cause it just doesn't.

    In till we have video technology in football this will never end refs are always bias to teams especially Man Utd and no one can deny the get favors all the time from refs. 19 league titles with the ref the 12 man team I would say.

    Before use start a was born in Germany support Birmingham and my brother who uses my account is English and he supports Aston villa.

    Football a fix certainly good be and they would hide it at all costs as they wouldn't want to destroy there beloved game. The hide illegal drug use within clubs and players as the don't want to destroy the image or football.

  • Comment number 99.

    94 I agree we should accept the ref's make the decision they think is right on the basis of their interpretaion of the incident in accordance with the laws of the game.

    I posted at 91 that I am in favour of video evidence being available for certain major decisions, but that this should be to address decisions where the ref has missed something and has clearly made a wrong decision by anyone's interpretation of the laws.

    The video panel would be able to spot things that the referee missed, which had he seen, would have led to him making a different (and correct) decisison. The panel should not be allowed to reinterpret a refs decision in cases where he has seen the incident (e.g. there is contact in the box and the ref deems it to be a penalty, if the panel confirm contact was made they stand by the ref's interpretation of the incident rather than debate if it was soft or not).

    Over the course of a season, a ref will be judged on his ability to make the correct interpretation of the laws on a consistent basis. But during a match, there would be a facility that would cater for some of those major incidents where the ref has simply not seen something and allow for genuine errors to be rectified at the time.

  • Comment number 100.

    I do not think the rules are under fire here,it is the inconsistency of the officials that is causing the problem.Today in the Wigan -Man.City game a defender deliberately handled the ball when he was the only player between an attacker and the goal.Why was he not given a red card?,he stopped a goal scoring opportunity.
    It would be good if the fans were given an explanation!!


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