Time for a Refereeing Reform?

The 2011/2012 Premier League season has so far lived up to all the expectation and hype that surrounded its commencement.

The two Manchester clubs are neck and neck at the top of the table, while who’d have thought Tottenham Hotspur would be hot on their heels, and ahead of a chasing pack including Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool?

The Holy Grail if you like, champions league qualification, is what four out of these top six sides are aiming to achieve. Yet, with the performances put in so far it seems to me that one of the common residents of those spots (Arsenal or Chelsea) is likely to miss out.

So, in times of great financial benefits, and even greater loss for unconceivable failings, we need a football platform where talent comes out on top.

I’m talking in light of recent controversy surrounding the decisions of top Premier League referees. 

Vincent Kompany’s red card in the Manchester FA Cup derby and Glen Johnson’s ‘no-card’ challenge on Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott are this week’s talking points, and show to me why the need for a refereeing reform has never been greater.

For me, neither tackle was worthy of a card. Both won the ball, and on neither occasion was the opposition injured or hurt. By the book yes, two feet were up, studs were showing and they were off the ground. But, I strongly agree with BBC pundit Lee Dixon who commented after the Man City vs. Liverpool game, that it seems as though nowadays winning the ball earns you a red card.

Of course there comes a time where a red card is warranted. Had Kompany connected with Nani, or had Johnson clashed into Lescott, then I’m sure there are few people who could deny that a red card would have been warranted.

From a fans viewpoint, it appears as though referees are one dimensional in games, as they can’t apply a common sense approach when officiating. If the ball is won, unless injuring the opponent, it must surely be a fair tackle; after all, football is of course a contact sport. In many cases though, their actions can ruin games and wrong decisions become all the more apparent as it starts to cost teams both at the top and bottom of the league.

The appeal system could also benefit from this ‘common sense approach,’ as even having viewed replays, players who win the ball, albeit through a tough tackle, seem to be punished.

I do though speak through the benefit of hindsight, and having seen several replays and gauged many an opinion, it does become all too easy to condemn an official, and write an article highlighting their pitfalls and idiocy. So therefore, with two sides to each story, I find it difficult to understand why officials can’t announce to the public the reasoning behind a decision, or even an apology for an incorrect one, to give that second part of the story, having reviewed the incident post-match.

That said, one recent incident where the referee should be highly commended, was during the celebration of Billy Sharp’s goal against Middlesbrough. His celebration in which he lifted his top up to reveal a message on an under shirt would usually earn him a yellow card, but under the circumstances following the recent death of his baby son, the referee took a common sense approach to not penalise the striker.

Their silence does prove louder than words, as the lack of refereeing communication leaves fans who want an answer, without one. This draws attention to incorrect decisions, instead of praising officials for the correct ones. The image of our referees becomes tainted, by both fans, players and managers alike, and we end up in a situation in which we find ourselves today.

It has become all too common for managers to blame a result on the officials and all too common that referees become the talking point instead of the game itself.

Never has there been more importance when it comes to winning and success, and never has there been a more important time to ensure referees get decisions right.


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