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Proposals for better refereeing in football part 1

By Walter Broeckx

A few weeks ago someone in the comment section had a few proposals that could improve football. As can happen in comment sections the great comment gets lost amongst other comments and the idea doesn’t get the attention it deserved.

So after weeks not having the time I found the time to give my thoughts on the ideas.  Always a problem when you lay your time around and you don’t find it back later on. Oh well.

I will work my way trough the proposals. I will put them in bold and mark the added text like this. And then my remarks will be back in the normal writing style of the house.

1) Add another referee – Other sports have multiple referees and it doesn’t confuse the players or take away from a referee’s ability to control a game. The ability to see more of the pitch can only help the team get the calls correct. (The National Hockey League found that the game was getting too fast for one referee and that games were turning into a wrestling match on ice in the 1990s hence skilled players were being pushed out of the game. In addition, Canada and the US were losing ground to skilled European teams). The referees can always discuss decisions and if you designate one the head referee he can overrule his junior.

I must say that I have experimented with this in the past. It was in a 5 a side tournament and we then did the final of that tournament with 2 refs. The field was of course already smaller but after two days of refereeing even the youngest referee legs start giving way. So we did the final with two refs, one on each side of the field.  And I must say it worked. We had a great match with both refs on the same wave length and when looking back at it we agreed to agree on the other ref his decisions each time.

But the main problem to have two refs on the field is that there is need of a major change in rules. Will FIFA go that far? Maybe if there would be money involved to fill their pockets. So to be honest I don’t see it happening any time soon.

But having two refs would have advantages. The refs wouldn’t have to run as much compared to being the only ref on the field. And this will make sure that refs will be fresher and less tired at the end of the game. And being tired is one of the main reasons why refs make mistakes and certainly in the closing stages of a match.

What might be a problem is that if there are two refs on the field they might get in the way of the ball more. We all hate it when the ref touches the ball (and believe me refs hate it even more as it usually means losing points on the assessment) but simply by using the adding up thing if you have more persons on the pitch the chance of running in the way of play becomes bigger.  But this could be prevented if we used the 5th and 6th ref that we see in the Champions League in a proper way.

Now they are just standing there most of the time as some nice decoration. How many times have they done something? They just stand there. I must say that in the play offs in Belgium they have used them also. And it didn’t prevent many matches being decided on wrong decisions.  I partly blame it on putting them on the wrong side of the goal. I wrote an article about that a few years ago when the football authorities in their wisdom (read sarcastically please) switched them from one side of the goal to the other. By doing that they created another black spot for the ref on the field.

People might argue that there are not enough refs to do such a thing. You need double the refs you need now. And as there is in general a shortage of refs you will not be able to do this for all football wherever it is played. My answer to this is that it is a fairy tale from Fifa that football is played in the same way on every level all over the world. In Italy they use six (yes 6) refs as a standard in their league. In England 4. And in most countries 4, and even then change it to 6 in play offs in some countries.

So the game is not played and officiated in the same way in each country. So allowing another ref on the field should be made possible.

But the main thing is that it needs lots of work to decide how to do it and how the refs will work together as a team. Refs are not really used to it so it will bring a complete change on the way refs will work.

My personal take is that if it would improve football, and I think it can if the right agreements are made, let’s try it yesterday.

2)Increase the number of referees and where they are from in England. La Liga has 20 or so referees and a serie A has more than 20 (22) with almost the same number doing a couple of games to get experience at this level. The Bundesliga has 22. The premiership has 18 but three of them have done five or fewer matches. Not enough variety. And their regional origins are hugely biased towards the North and the Midlands.

It has been one of my main talking points for years now. I still cannot understand why it takes so long to change this. The PGMOL has done a very bad job in this regard in my view. I have pointed out that you should make it a starting principle in the PL (and each other league to of course) that the most you can get any ref would be for two matches in a season.

And even then the people who appoint the refs should take care that you get that same ref once in a home match and once away. That is the only way to treat all teams in the same way. Top teams don’t need to be treated differently to the lower placed teams. Each ref will do your team twice in a season and will bring you a maximum of six points or will cost you a maximum of six points.

That way any bias from any ref will be down to a minimum. The fact that the PGMOL still cannot see for this to happen is criminal negligence for me.

The fact that there are no refs from the south of England is also something that is completely and utterly strange.  How on earth can the most populated area of England not have any refs in the top division of football? If it were the case that people from the south of England had a different skin colour one would think it would be a racist thing. Now all refs from South and North in general have the same colour of their skin so it cannot really be that. Or is it?

I’m not familiar enough with England to judge on this as I am not English. But I do wonder if there is a big gap in mentality or a total prejudice between people from the North to those from the South. Or the other way round?  Do they look down on each other? Which can happen of course as I can see such a thing happening in my country in our society at times.  (Yes Walter – regional differences abide in England, and subconsciously a lot of our instant decisions as to a person’s intelligence and trustworthiness are still based on regional accent.  We deny it of course, but it is still there – Tony).

In this case it seems that refereeing is a Northern monopoly and people from the South are unwanted. It is people from the North who control the referee and they only want fellow Northerns in their ranks.

So a final judgement of this proposal: It should have been corrected years ago.

I’ll set out more proposals in subsequent articles. Stay tuned and have your say of course.

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22 comments to Proposals for better refereeing in football part 1

  • jambug

    The only way the Refereeing standards would improve is if they where shielded from the people they answer to. The PGMOL?(or whatever it’s called). No chance. THE MEDIA !!!!.

    Look at it this way. We have had two diabolical refereeing performances against us this year. Villa home. City away. And that’s not to say we didn’t deserve to lose those games but it doesn’t change the fact the referees performances where a disgrace.

    And then Tuesdays performance by Mason. Very Poor at best.

    But when judged by there bosses, the Media, every, and I mean every, decision was vindicated.

    It happened again this morning on SKY. Mason got everything right apparently.

    So all’s well then at PGMOL then. As long as the perception is that all is well that’s all that matters. Nobody, least of all the PGMOL, gives a toss to fact, tha, actually, our refs are a fucking disgrace !!

    Foreign refs. Flown in the night before, flown out straight after the game. It’s got to be made that they are NOT being held accountable by the agenda driven media, but by an independent, European, body of judges.

    Alas it will never happen.

  • jambug

    What I’m saying is walter, is that it doesn’t matter how many assistance you have they will all still referee to appease those who ulmitately judge them, and that is NOT the PGMOL, because they, as the referees themselves are judged by the likes of SKY, MOTD, TS and the Red Tops.

    Some of our refs are capable of very good performances as many have proved when in the CL. They prove that when not worried about how there performance is going to be judged all over the back pages the next day they can be ok.

    Take Mason, I believe Untold Referees showed on here prior to Tuesday Night that he had a 97% correct decision assessment on one of his games. So he IS a decent Ref when not under the duress of expectation from the media. He knows/knew that no matter how bad he treated Arsenal he would receive no criticism whatsoever, as has been the case.

  • Mark

    I agree that two refs on the pitch would help. And if the stayed on the opposite side from the linesman I think they could stay out of the way. The NBA has three refs and I don’t think they are in the way very often because they stay toward the sidelines and the court is much smaller.

    I also agree that more refs would be better. It would also prevent manipulation especially if the 5 refs going to a game only found out which position they would fill a few hours before the game starts.

    It is interesting that we don’t see any black refs in the EPL. In fact I can recall a person of color or ethnicity in any game that I have watched in the past three years. Maybe I missed it, because I don’t watch every game but England has a large population especially in London of non-white people. So one would think that there would be some color among the refs.

    I would also think if the can’t find enough refs in England then import some good ones! May Belgium could provide a dozen good refs!

  • Mahdain

    Though two refs would be a good idea i shiver at the thought on how Riley would use that to his advantage.. Mason on our side of the pitch and Taylor on the other and they can interchange with Dean and Probert…can you imagine that?

  • Mahdain

    *on one side of the pitch not our

  • finsbury

    “Video killed the PGMOB star,
    Video killed the PGMOB star…”

  • OMGArsenal

    Walter…..I did a number of games. both indoor and outdoor with two referees and found it initially hard to adjust to, especially when the play was on or around the halfway line. It required a very slow whistle to ensure that neither official called the foul differently….an embarrassing possibility nonetheless. That said, it does not only alleviate fatigue but speeds up the game as well, since the refs don’t have to run the entire length of the field to make a call, and if they are supported by 4 assistants as well, it really is better. The issue here is likely cost and teamwork since officials aren’t prepared to work in half the field usually.
    As far as increasing the number of officials to 22 for example, there is another approach mentioned a few times on UA that I fully support. That is to allow European (ideally FIFA)referees to officiate in England. Initially they would have a very big impact since they would be an unknown quantity and if they didn’t have a great command of the English language, would be less likely to be intimidated by thugs. Once they became known, their reputation would proceed them. I worked a number of tournaments where visiting referees officiated and it made a visible difference to the game. There were always one or two who did poorly but for the most part, it improved the play and actually diminished the discipline offenses significantly as players were often reticent to try their usual tricks if the official was an unknown quantity.
    If we combined these ideas with video replays and goal line technology, the game would take a great leap into the 21st century finally!

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Thanks for this, Walter.

  • nicky

    No matter how many match officials you have, until out and out corruption can be eliminated, there will be no lasting improvement.
    There is an old French saying “The more things change, the more they stay the same”.

  • bjtgooner

    Walter the changes you propose seem fine, but will they address the problem? I agree with nicky, the problem surrounds the PGMOL secret society and corruption within the game. The corrupt people must be removed so that whatever system is decided upon has a reasonable chance of success.

  • Guys,

    you all need to read jambug’s comments again. The refs are not as helpless or hapless as you might think. It is the MEDIA! They justify all their fuck-ups as long as they hurt the right teams and favour those they have ordained. Stick 10 refs in there and there would not be much change.

    It’s the media and as long as they keep playing Favourites, nothing will change. I also like the idea of foreign refs as suggested by jambug. There is too much nepotism and insiderism in the officiating of the premier league.

  • nicky

    @Bootoomee,
    While I have no time for the media, I think you attach far too much intelligence from that quarter. The media are not instigators for the corrupt actions of many of the match officials, whose rewards are much closer to home.

  • OlegYch

    i don’t think more referees on the pitch will help much

    this season we’ve seen a lot of cases when the ref is close to the incident but his view is obscured or it happens too fast to make a correct decision

    i believe replays have to be introduced, it’s just a shame seeing time being wasted in senseless conversations between ref and assistants, when an instant replay could have given the answer

  • Florian

    Yep, I’m seeing video replays a lot in NHL, and they are pretty fast with them, striving to avoid disruptions and setbacks, and with football generally being a tad slower, I would expect them to work quite well. There are also replays of litigious incidents shown on the stadiums’ big screens – they do it often in Seattle, at least, although they come with some delay, so not that useful, but heck, it’s still a plus in my view.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I still think that the only solution is to have video playback viewed for all goals penalties, red and second yellow cards with each captain and manager allowed to challenge one decision each per half, If the original decision is upheld to be correct the challenge is lost, if overturned the challenge is retained. Timekeeping to be managed by a separate official and shown on the stadium clock. Ball to be in play for 30 minutes a half, clock stops when the ball is out of play and starts when the second player touches the ball when it comes back in again. So for a throw in the cloche starts when the ball reaches a player at the end of the throw, A goal kick when the next defender or attacker gets it (if it is kicked straight into touch the clock doesn’t start until the throw in is played). Cuts out all time wasting. Absolutely won’t happen though, too many vested interests.

  • Mark

    Yes, video review would be great. And suitable for the higher leagues.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Don’t worry there are many more ideas to come 😉 That is why it is called part 1

  • Armin

    I don’t think, of course as someone who never done ref job, it is technical issue. In most of cases I noticed ref and linesman were positioned quite fair, and had clear field of vision. So, I assume, that refs don’t worry too much will they make mistake now and than, and sometime more often.
    From my 15 years army service I have learn that people tend to make non-intentional mistakes from pure laziness, or lack of supervision. Complete refs organisation including supervision body is same group of people who (nothing bad in it) support each other.
    Thus I believe there should be, maybe, International Independent Comity or such who will do games review and make referees evaluation with power to remove ref from list for next few games.
    As long as worse thing which can happen to them is to “have to admit mistake and say sorry” few weeks later. You cant really expect something will change, even if you bring all technology, another 5 refs on pitch or what ever. In CL and EL we got crew of 5 Man in Black, but still there is bunch of mistakes.

  • Stuart

    Florian,
    Play doesn’t even need to stop for a replay to take place so where all this nonsense about slowing the game down / too many interruptions comes from.

  • para

    I think a good start is to clarify and make the rules non negotiable. Clear defined punishments for EVERY rule broken, no allowances for; “a strong tackle” vs “could not stand up to him”, “oh that was a soft foul” and such deviations from the rules, which only cause the confusion we have now and it leaves the door open for manipulation.
    I also think that decisions made by the ref that are clearly wrong, and backed by video evidence, should be rectified before the game ends. This would not make the game rigid, in fact it would make it clear to everyone watching what is taking place, no one could complain when a punishment is given, concerning what players can and cannot do, everything would be clear, especially to the refs and players. In a few years with these changes, we would wonder why there was ever a problem with refs?

  • South Wales Gooner

    Not only is 2 referees a good idea. I have believed for a long time that it should be 3 referees. Two of the referees being able to position themselves anywhere within one half of the field. The other referee would be the ‘main’ referee. He would be able to position himself anywhere on the field. The ‘main’ referee would also have the overall power of decision on debatable cases. This way there would still be one man in charge. The more eyes on the field the better. It is all a matter of the angle from which an incident is viewed. With more eyes on the field there would probably be no need for technology.

  • jambug

    Nicky @ 5.55am

    It’s got nothing to do with intelligence, I don’t even think it’s about corruption (in the normal, buying someone off, context anyway), it’s about servicing peoples (The Media) vestige interests and human nature.

    Who wouldn’t take the easy option? Most of us tend to, and refs are no different.

    Lets take Southampton’s 1st goal. Firstly the ref had a perfect view. Second, I find it hard to believe that anybody who saw it could not see that the attacker came straight through, and climbed all over, the back of Monrael. It was a foul everyday of the week. Even if you somehow don’t, you most agree at least Mason had a decision to make. And this is where the human nature comes in. He knows damn well if he disallows a goal by Southampton against Arsenal and there’s the slightest chance he gets it wrong he will get slaughtered. I hate saying this but that’s a ‘fact’. On the other hand if he calls it in Southampton’s favour, and it turns out he called it wrong, there is a major chance he will, not only get away with it, but most likely get praised. Exactly what happened.

    This is how we are refereed week in week out. The refs know making bad calls against us is NEVER going to be highlighted, where as the complete opposite will happen if they get it wrong in our favour.

    As I say, the PGMOL are happy as long as the perception is the refs are getting it right and it’s the media who create that perception, as we saw on SKY yesterday who concluded Mason got everything right.

    So despite a very poor performance Mason ended up actually getting praised.

    The PGMOL are not judging Mason, they are judging what the Media say about him.

    Andrew Crawshaw @ 9.34

    Personally I cant see how play backs will work because the viewers will still be operating under the same duress as the refs. People sat in judgment yesterday pouring over ‘Playbacks’, forwards, backwards, slow motion, this angle, that angle and still came to the conclusion that Mertersakers challenge was a foul and Monrael wasn’t fouled. Nothing will change because they will see what they want, or worse, are expected to see.