Following the recent Red Card to Carlton Cole, I thought it fitting to write my next article about the ongoing issues surrounding refereeing in the English Premier League.
The English Premier League is widely known as the best league in the world for a number of reasons. The pace of the football, the players we have playing here, the standard of the football played, and the passion of the supporters. It’s a very testing environment for even the best footballer, to play in. But what about the match officials?
I respect the work that they do, and although I have certainly had my fair share of moans about refs, they do a fantastic job. It is a tough out there, and I welcomed the decision, a few years ago, to employ full time officials. However, is the game better off for having them? Referees have become a lot more high profile these days. I remember a time when if you said a referees name, you had no idea what sort of ref he was. But I also remember when it changed, and it was when I saw Uriah Rennie, sat on a Harley Davidson motorbike, on a double magazine spread, and he was giving an interview. A referee should be low profile within the game. He is simply there to make sure the players adhere to the rules of the game.
Now, back to the Carlton Cole sending off. The referee made a number of howlers throughout this game, for both sides, however, the Cole sending off changed the whole course of the game, and effectively, cost us any points we were likely to pick up with Cole on the pitch. But the way this should be dealt with, should be the ref responsible, taken into an office, shown the highlights of his performance, and make sure he learns from these mistakes, and goes again. The game happens so quickly, and referees have to make split second decisions – it’s very tough for them.
Would an official watching replays of the game on the side of the pitch help the game? Maybe – but where would the decision making stop? We are already looking into goal mouth cameras to see if the ball crosses the line at all. I feel the game would be too stop/start if every decision is scrutinized by another official. Every tackle, every penalty shout, every dive,  the game would take hours to complete. Refereeing decisions are one of many reasons that make the game so exciting.
Referees are put under immense pressure from the games governing bodies making silly rules – a yellow card for celebrating a goal? Giving penalties for handball when the player has his hands by his side and the ball is kicked at him from 2 yards away? The offside rule which is complicated for even the officials to understand, let alone the players, managers and supporters!
My final point about the pressure put on referees comes back to money. A bad decision could cost a club relegation from the league, missing out on European places and players/managers getting bonuses. This puts the focus on decisions made by the ref throughout the game.
In my opinion, I think the referees we have are outstanding, only making the odd mistake which, given the circumstances, is understandable. I am happy for goal line technology, but not TV evidence on the side of the pitch. Some clarification and minor rule changes are needed, but this is down to the Governing bodies.
As long as we get a fair share of decisions going our way, then I am happy with the way things are. Justice was done in the end, and although it cost us the game, it could have cost us 3 more had he been suspended!