It’s been a really bad few weeks for Referees in English football. Ever since the Scottish Referee’s felt their lack of control over the game meant them striking was acceptable, I’ve been meaning to write up a little piece about this issue. The actions of Clattenburg and Atkinson recently have brought it back into my focus.
Here are the changes I would bring to the game. Some of these are fairly straightforward, others are more radical. I believe some of these will be implemented, and soon. Others will probably never be.
The overall caveat for all of these: they would be implemented in the top leagues first, before allocating resource to each successive decreasing leagues. Some complain about that, with things like video referrals being difficult to implement in the Northern Conference. My reply is simple: The Premier League is more important simply by being the top league. That, and I will never be convinced that the resources do not exist to implement this systems in every league. Regardless, a missed offside or handball means a hell of a lot more between Man United and Chelsea, and between Ireland and France, then it does between Accrington and Burton.
When I say “Referee” here, I refer to Referees, linesman, fourth officials and those new officials behind goal lines.
Here’s what my football system looks like:
1. Copy the three challenges system being used in the NFL, where each manager may challenge three decisions by an official. In the event of a decision being upheld, the other teams gains yards (obviously this cannot be applied to all decisions, but it can to the majority). Limiting challenges deters overuse of the function and adding punishments makes sure that Managers use it wisely.
2. Any decision can be challenged. Any decision.
3. All goals and all red card decisions are automatically reviewed. These are the most important decisions so it’s only right.
4. Yellow cards result in a sin bin of five minutes. Goodbye diving.
5. Referee decisions are relayed to the crowd via earpiece/loudspeaker as is the practice in Rugby Union.
6. Subject to my previous “Top leagues first” addendum, all Refereeing performances are reviewed by at least one head/retired Referee during the game and then by a small panel after the game. If the Referee has made a mistake, or several small ones, he’s censured. If he makes a large mistake, he’s relegated to a lower league for a time. Continuing errors over the course of many games will result in a dismissal. A Referee would not be censured or punished for a mistake overturned as a result of video replay.
7. If it is not already being done, a private “league” system, rating Referee’s game-to-game will be kept by the FA. The “winner” will be revealed at the close of the season and applauded.
8. Moving on a little. In the modern game, punishments are not applied uniformly across the whole system. Three month bans for violent conduct in low leagues miraculously turn into three match bans in the Premiership. We all know the kind of crap Alan Shearer tried to pull in the past, and it’s clear that the system, as it is, is not fair in that regard. My system sees uniformity introduced.
9. Further, retroactive punishments, for offences committed away from the Refs attention (like Rooney’s elbow last week) will be implemented as well as retroactive lifting of unfair punishments, like an incorrect red card.
10. In order to insure that such fairness is implemented correctly, and that issues like an England striker holding the FA to ransom over a potential charge can be tackled, such punishments would have to be controlled and assigned by an impartial body. It would have to be an international body, but that too raises bias issues. My suggestion is for the FA to control punishments and bans, but that an effected club can appeal to a higher body if they feel the
11. If a Referee makes a major mistake, a mistake that radically alters the outcome of a game, he will be asked by the FA/FIFA to apologise to the club/association in question, formally. Failure to do so will result in relegation/dismissal. Moreover, he will not be permitted to Referee a game involving that club for a set period of time. This might seem harsh, but if the person in question has failed at his job, doing a disservice to the players, managers, fans and club officials, the very least that is required is an admittance that a mistake was made and that the employee in question is regretful. It is amazing to me how untouchable a person is when he is not considered an employee of a company, but just “the ref”. If all of the evidence says the Referee is wrong, then that official should man up and admit he/she was wrong.
12. Criticism of Referee’s, from Managers and players, will be permitted, as long as such criticism does not cross the boundaries of tact and personal issues. If a Referee has made a large blunder, potentially costing a team a game, Managers should be allowed to point that out without fear of reprisal from the FA.
13. If any of this is unacceptable, Referee’s should at least be asked/required, as many Managers seem to be, to face the television cameras after a match and answer questions from the media regarding their performance. Referee’s are increasingly seen as secluded figures who are not being held accountable for their actions.
14. Referee’s should be recruited younger, in order to insure faster, better sighted officials. Both men and women will be recruited for the job.
15. Only team Captains can speak to Refs during a game. Any other player who tries to outside of the Ref talking to him/her first, regardless of the reason, will be susceptible to a booking and sinbinning.
Is any of this too much? Impossible to implement? I would say no.