THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

7 February ~ Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson was a model of restraint after his side's 1-0 defeat to a late Brighton goal at the weekend. The defeat was "a difficult one to take at the moment", but for now he would be maintaining a diplomatic silence over the decision of the referees to dismiss Jermaine Beckford, apparently for foul and abusive language. Or, putting it another way, we lost and we all know it was the referees' fault. It was just another average weekend in the top two divisions of English football when it came to blaming the match officials for the final score.

If it hadn't been for Howard Webb and his refereeing team at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, both Chelsea and Manchester United would have won the game. Royal knight Alexander Ferguson said Chelsea "should have had a man sent off in the first half", a non-call for which he blamed linesman Darren Cann. Chelsea boss André Villas-Boas meanwhile lamented "a dubious decision that shifted the running of the game". He wasn't talking about the Gary Cahill challenge that caused Fergie to moan, though, but the award of Manchester United's second penalty.

Tony Pulis knew exactly why Stoke had lost at home to Sunderland. It was less down to James McClean's fine individual goal and more to do with Robert Huth's earlier sending off. Indeed, if Huth had still been on the field when McClean ran through the middle of Stoke's defence, maybe he could have taken him out with a sliding two-footed challenge and kept the score at 0-0.

Millwall's Kenny Jackett said West Ham's winning goal against his team followed a foul and should have been disallowed. Barnsley's Derek McInnes said one of the two red cards his team received while losing 3-0 at home to Leeds was wrong and "very harsh". But he also conceded that "we can't blame the result" on the referee's decisions.

"If we had 11 against 11 I feel very confident in saying we would have won the game quite comfortably," said a sanguine Mark Hughes following QPR's 2-1 defeat to Wolves. He could hardly argue with Djibril Cisse's straight red card for violent conduct, but the fact his team was a man down still merited a mention.

West Brom's Roy Hodgson cited the "clear penalty" his side should have been awarded during their 2-1 home defeat to Swansea, while admitting "we didn't do enough to win it". Martin Jol mentioned in passing Adam Johnson's "greatest dive I've ever seen" that lead to Manchester City's penalty and first goal during a 3-0 win against Jol's Fulham, but he too acknowledged that his team had ended up mainly fighting to keep the score down.

Shame, though, on Aston Villa's Alex McLeish for failing in any way to scapegoat the referees after losing 2-1 at Newcastle. Instead, he blamed his own defence and the hard work of the home team. Even more naive was Blackburn's Steve Kean, who could find no reason to dispute Gaël Givet's red card at Arsenal. "If there is intent with leaving the ground with two feet, the lads know the rules and you have to slide with one foot," he said in the wake of the 7-1 shellacking.

The Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers Association should have a word with Kean. Does he not realise the can of worms he is opening by laying the blame for defeats at the door of anyone besides the match officials? Football cannot afford such rational post-game analysis – the dangerous idea that referees are fallible should not be allowed to take hold.

Referees cause nothing but untold stress, anger and frustration for players, managers and fans alike. We should abolish them, because clearly all they ever do is get it wrong. Let our players – those models of professional sporting behaviour down on the pitch, with their clear, eye-level view of all incidents – make the calls in the course of the match with rapidly reached consensus and a firm handshake. This would finally mean an end to all the wrong results that referees needlessly cause our wonderful game. Ian Plenderleith

Comments (24)
Comment by Paul Rowland 2012-02-07 12:00:42

The Robert Hoof case is an interesting one. According to fellow uber-clogger Jonathan Woodgate, Hoofy should not have been sent off because when he slid in and upended the Sunderland player "he was in full control of his movements". Eh? Surely that only makes the misdemeanour all the worse, as it implies that Hoofy meant to do it. If Woody is right, then Hoofy's got to go. Intentional, reckless and dangerous - definite red card.

My take on it is that Hoofy was NOT in control. It was a complete accident. Put it down to the fact that the pitch was a bit greasy and Hoofy is one dickens of a unit and not particularly well co-ordinated.

And you can't send someone off just for being big and clumsy, no matter what Arsene Wenger might think.

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2012-02-07 12:00:58

Great stuff.

But part of the problem is that the media don't dare hold managers to account by questioning their selection and tactics, they often seem to go straight in and ask how they feel about refereeing decisions. Also, it's a lot easier for the increasingly lazy punditry of the Match of the Day team to use the technological marvels at their disposal to show a few replays of a controversial decision than to actually analyse the play.

Comment by ooh aah 2012-02-07 12:36:23

""If we had 11 against 11 I feel very confident in saying we would have won the game quite comfortably," said a sanguine Mark Hughes following QPR's 2-1 defeat to Wolves."

Yeah, but that's not necessarily a criticism of the ref though. It all depends on the context, he could equally be critising Cisse for getting sent off. I don't think, from what you've written there, that you can really include that in a section of managers blaming officials.

Comment by geobra 2012-02-07 13:09:31

In Italy Juventus general manager Beppe Marotta claimed that his team's failure to beat Siena was due to the fact that the referee was inexperienced, and argued that the top teams should always have the so-called top officials. This was based solely on the fact that the 31-year-old referee Peruzzo failed to give a penalty when Siena captain Vergassola appeared to handle, though I would argue that there was a case for saying that it was not deliberate. In the end Marotta succeeded only in making himself look ridiculous to all except possibly some Juventus fans. Is he suggesting that the 'top' referees don't make mistakes? Or is there something more sinister behind his demand?

Marotta went on to say that Juventus wanted 'respect'. The league's referee chief Stefano Braschi pointed out to him that all 20 teams in Serie A deserve equal respect, from the smallest to the biggest, and that no team has the right to a monopoly of the 'best' referees.

Besides, one of the worst this season has been the international ref Gianluca Rocchi.

Comment by jonmid 2012-02-07 14:18:58

with regards to Cisse Hughes was actually right as his sending off did tip the game in Wolves favour and as ooh aah pointed it does depend on context. Also how about some of the decisions that have gone against Wolves during this season

Comment by peakevilla 2012-02-07 14:31:05

Barnsley lost 2-1 away to Watford on Sat., while Derek McInnes's Bristol City lost 3-0 at home to Leeds Utd. Good article.

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2012-02-07 14:34:53

Christ, this blame the ref stuff has become tedious, hasn't it?

Comment by imp 2012-02-07 14:40:42

@ ooh ah - I agree with you on Hughes, he wasn't disputing the decision, and I think there was an implied criticism of his own player. But he was still indulging in the game of 'if this had happened, or that hadn't happened', rather than analysing his own team's weaknesses. Reading back, though, it probably doesn't merit inclusion alongside the other moaners. Ian.

Comment by Coral 2012-02-07 15:06:46

The shame is that it is the referee that has to take it but then they are used to it and it is the part they play in the soap opera that is modern football. If I read or here the name Kompany one more time when someone incorrectly talks about a two footed tackle, I am not sure what I might do.

What annoys me the most is the panelists and pundits who complain and criticise but fully admit they don't know the rules (laws). They happily say a ref has it wrong and show replays of it, yet are often wrong. A good example is "they raised their hands so they have to go" and "he had his studs showing so he had to go", neither of which is in the laws. It is fine for the manager to blame the ref because they would otherwise be responsible for the loss and are under pressure but there is no reason for a pundit to do it.

Comment by drew_whitworth 2012-02-07 15:17:00

The Brighton fans I know on FB who saw the game were moaning about the ref as well! And we won...

Comment by Mr Beast 2012-02-07 15:24:52

Why not do away with the post match managerial interview altogether? In the vast majority of instances they add absolutely nothing to anybody's understanding or enjoyment of the game.

Unless Sky or the BBC are prepared to grow a pair and call the managers on their self serving rubbish, but that isn't going to happen.

Comment by Coral 2012-02-07 16:16:33

Clearly, Mr Beast, you have not ventured on to the horrificnous of the red button over a weekend. Here there is a show which I have forgotten the name of where it is a loop of the post match interviews from the games. Sadly it appears there is a demand for this.

Comment by JimDavis 2012-02-07 16:37:14

It's not just football Referees. There was an opinion piece in the Time regarding the first day's play in the third test between England and Pakistan where 16 wickets fell. While the main theme of the piece was to point out the flaws of the DRS, it was noted that, (over 6 hours, 250 deliveries, about 100 decision) Simon Taufel had a nightmare day as DRS proved he got 3 decisions wrong - 4 if you count the one that noone else though wrong enough to review!
As for the missed handball down at the Hawthorns. While most at the game saw it, blaming the ref is academic when playing as bad at home as we are right now.

Comment by Mr Beast 2012-02-07 16:39:58

Thanks for the warning Coral. I’ll make sure to keep away from that.

The notion that the interview is time to criticise officials is so ingrained in men like Allardyvce that they climb in whether or not their team has won, and no matter how much he is insulting the intelligence of the spectator or the viewer.

Comment by biziclop 2012-02-07 16:48:43

I have an even better idea: why don't we do away with the Laws of the Game completely?

The referees make their own rules up as they go along anyway, they consider, mete and balance as they see fit. It's quite a nuisance for these faultless and blameless monks of Truth that there are those bloody written rules that pesky fans can look up and point out the so-called "mistakes" referees make.

Of course that still leaves us with the problem of fans seeing the incidents with their own eyes, which could lead to mass hallucination and therefore unrest, so I propose that televised football should be banned with immediate effect and only qualified referees would be allowed to enter the stadia.

We, ordinary fans would be quite happy to just be told the result afterwards.

Comment by Gibbin82 2012-02-07 19:36:34

Not sure if you are being serious to suggest that referees decissions do not at times influence results, or that when Leicesters Nigel Pearson did not comment at the post match interviews on the sending off of Jermaine Beckford that he somehow miraculously he did actually say it was the referee who made them lose. However in the case of the Leicester Brighton game it was clear to anyone at the game who clearly seen the incident that the sending off was incorrect, this included Gus Poyett who went with Nigel Pearson into the referees room post match to find out why Beckford was dissmissed as they thought the discussion was wrong. In fact also the FA agreed as Beckfords red card was rescinded three days later.

Comment by enda_c 2012-02-07 20:38:36

Before the Arsenal- Man Utd game Arsene was telling the press about the sterling work done by a Swedish statistician who proved to him that if all the officials' decisions that had unfairly gone against his team had not happened then Arsenal would be second or something. This according to the fellas on Sunday Supplement anyway...

Comment by The Dead C 2012-02-07 23:41:52

How about a panel of Joey Barton, Craig Bellamy, John Terry and Lee Bowyer sitting behind a giant crescent shaped desk hovering above the centre circle, voting X-factor style on whether a player gets a yellow or a red on each tackle? Now THAT would be entertaining.

Comment by jameswba 2012-02-08 07:13:15

I agree with Mr Beast on the idea of doing away with the post-match interview. Not that it's going to happen, just that a bit of balance and sanity would be restored if it did.

I've heard the interview with Kenny Dalglish after Liverpool's 0-0 draw with Spurs on Monday and the interviewer was trying everything to get him to say Liverpool should have had two pens. In fairness, Dalglish was having none of it, suggesting that Dawson's tackle, if it was a foul, was outside the box, and that he'd seen no handball from Ledley King.

A shame then that Dalglish should go and spoil such fair-minded responses by saying that Luis Suarez, he who was found guilty of racially abusing an opponent, 'should never have been (banned) in the first place'.

Comment by geobra 2012-02-08 11:16:56

Those who take up refereeing today and reach the highest levels know what's in store for them, and I suspect that they take the criticism in their stride because they accept that it goes with the job.

It's a pity, though, that more time is not devoted to some of the brilliant decisions they and their assistants make. For instance, I read somewhere that here in Italy linesmen get 98 per cent of offside calls right. If that's true, it's amazing and should be highlighted.

Comment by geobra 2012-02-08 11:33:09

But, of course, 'ref ( or linesman) gets it right' doesn't sell papers. If it did, we'd really be in trouble.

Comment by Rogin the sunlounger fan 2012-02-08 18:25:04

"our wonderful game"?

One that causes you, yourself to launch into vitriolic tirades against people you've never even met?

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2012-02-09 11:04:09

Paul Rowland:

'Hoofy should not have been sent off because when he slid in and upended the Sunderland player "he was in full control of his movements"'

I for one think we should glad that Huth is so regular. Credit to Pulis for enforcing a diet on his players that's high in fibre and low in hard-boiled eggs.

Comment by Mak 2012-02-11 11:21:23

Excellent article.

There is no problem of incompetent referees; only a problem of people not having the first idea what actually makes a good referee, and usually being in a poor position to apply said lack of knowledge owing to completely understandable and acceptable bias.

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