Import or Improve – How will the FA solve the Refereeing Crisis?


We have seen it over the past 30 years – England and more specifically the Premier League has gone from 95% English player bias to just 30% now, with the majority in favour of cheaper, more talented European players. Over the past 10 years, the standard of refereeing has dropped – to the point where in most games the officiating comes under scrutiny because of the poor decision making and inability to follow the book.

It has got to such a stage that players literally have no respect for officials, and because of this they are cracking under the pressure. Much like England when it comes to the latter stages of the World Cup – they lack the bottle.  Look at the past few months – even the other Sunday – Howard Webb missed two blatant penalties and did not give Steven Gerrard a nailed on 2nd Yellow. Apparently Webb is the best England have – oh dear! Referee’s often speak to players on a first name basis, and are far too friendly – this could well be the cause of the lack of respect

If you look at Rugby Union, and League – only the captain can speak to the officials, and should there be any arguing – the free kick/penalty comes forward 10 yards. In Rugby – the Refs are respected. Nobody questions their authority. The FA don’t help – most of the time they back their men regardless, and if anything make their job harder by insisting on horribly complex rules – such as phases of play in the offside rule, and how if a referee or his officials see any part of a bad tackle but do not act at the time – (Callum Macmanaman tackle on Massadio Haidara springs to mind) – the governing body cannot act. A Rugby-style Referral system would be perfect.

Now – when you look around Europe, you barely see a mention of any refereeing mis-haps. When the Champions League or Europa League is on the telly, you don’t see much arguing. Is it a case of European Refs are better? If so, should the Premier League start importing the best of the best? If they can do it for the Champions League – why not the English Premier League? As for the people who say things like “what about the language barrier” and “Its the English PL – we should use English officials” – look at the World – Football, and English, is a universal language, and most referee’s will speak English. English officials have had their chance and are paid well, if players don’t play well they don’t get picked. When Referee’s don’t perform, they sometimes get demoted a division or two. If you ask any fan of any club in England – their biggest gripe will be referee’s – probably more the higher up the pyramid you go.

On the other side of things – if rules were introduced to protect Referee’s, and stricter punishment for abusing officials – would British Refs improve in the knowledge that they are not pressured into decisions by surrounding players? After all it is a tough job and the players make it 10 times harder (not all, but quite a few that are well known for it). Managers also do not help, look at Alan Pardew – actually pushing one.

Here are 5 steps that could be taken to help officials:

  1. Only the captain can speak to the Referee – reduces the amount of players around if a controversial call is made.
  2. Any arguing – FK goes forward 10 yards.
  3. Any abuse – automatic yellow card.
  4. Referral system if a referee is not sure (such as Haidara tackle)
  5. Enlightenment on rules – simplify, make them easier for everyone to understand – less open to varying interpretations.

There may be an initial spike in cautions and red cards, but once implemented players will realise that arguing/abusing officials will only lose them money in fines and cost their team points – and will buckle into line. Its a shame something like this was not introduced or will be in the near future, as the FA seem set in their ways. The Respect campaign was all mouth and no trousers – pretty much nothing was achieved or done.

We feel for the game to go forward  it has to go either of these two ways. Either import better, fitter, younger teams of officials or drastically cut down the amount of abuse referee’s get, which is forcing some to quit with death threats and other such things being sent, or tweeted – which will release some of the pressure that is forcing officials into making mistakes.