By Tony Attwood
Untold has a number of correspondents from around the country, and indeed from outside the UK, who regularly feed in thoughts and ideas relating to the issues that we cover on the site, and this week brought in an email on the topic of the way refereeing is undertaken in the Premier League in comparison with refereeing other team games. In particular rugby union.
Now I must admit I’m not much of a rugby fan – I have been to matches at Leicester and Northampton, but the game doesn’t really grab me. So I’ve just had a chat with a friend who is a season ticket holder at Northampton Saints on the issue of the way rugby union is refereed.
And I must say it does sound rather attractive – not in every detail of course, but still I think there is a lot there that might be implemented in football.
The first thing to say is that they have video referees in rugby union, and the video replays organised by the Television Match Official (TMO) are shown on the screens in the ground as the referee looks at them, so all spectators can see that things are properly considered.
This obviously helps enormously as a base point since it keeps the referee on the right side of the rule book. Such an approach in football would mean that within 15 minutes in many matches the TMO would be saying to the referee that he was wrong on so many occasions that either the ref would hand himself in for replacement, or following the TMO’s match report he would never referee again. But hopefully some of them would be able to have retraining before the season began.
Also if the television match official spots something he thinks is not right, he can speak at once to the referee and bring it to his attention. The referee can ignore him, but of course this could lead to repercussions later.
Now obviously such a system would be no good if the higher authority remained the PGMO, but for the moment we have to imagine a time when the PGMO had been consigned to the black hole of history, and a more sensible approach to refereeing has been instigated.
So on the basis that between them the referee and the TMO run the game properly, from this point on rugby union has a rule to the effect that players do not criticise the referee. Thus not only is there no group surrounding of the referee there is in fact no talking to the referee other than by the captain. The captain can politely ask the referee to explain a decision, but as I understand it, that is about as far as it goes.
In such a case I believe the player is not demanding that the referee should change his mind, but rather asking why a decision was given.
As for anyone else, a comment or gesture towards the referee, results in either a period of ten minutes in the sin-bin or else the movement of the ball 10 yards forward. The 10 yard rule might well not be applicable in football, but certainly 10 minutes off the field of play could be a handy way for dealing with a player who questions a referee.
As we know, in football the reality is that the referee virtually never changes his mind even when hounded by players – which means that the players who either individually or in gangs, go running around the referee and waving arms about, are just doing it to intimidate the referee in terms of future decisions, rather than to get a wrong decision changed.
I have heard it argued when this has been brought up before, that such a rule in football would mean that each game would end up with six players on each side, but I think this is ludicrous. All that would need to happen is for the referees to use the new set of rules in pre-season games and for the players to be warned thoroughly that the rules will be implemented, and then, after the first couple of sending offs to the sin-bin, order would be restored. Any captain worthy of the name would quickly say, “look, we are now down to nine players, everyone stay under control and do not question the ref.” No one surely is bonkers enough to allow the team to go down to eight or seven players, even for a few minutes.
Some maniac hot heads would of course push their luck, not because they choose to deliberately, but because they can’t help themselves, and this would see the value of certain players drop very quickly, but clubs would soon learn not to buy players who simply cannot control themselves. We only have to think of the two Preston players being sent off (highlighted in the match preview) to realise that for some players, sanity is a foreign country. But for the vast majority, sense will quickly prevail.
Thus instead of maniacs like Shawcross having a value in football, they would quickly become pariahs, rapidly removed from the game once and for all.
So I stress the point, the idea of sin-bins for dissent would quickly bring players to their senses. Combined with the TMO approach it would give us a chance to have proper games of football, without any bias.
The sort of marauding gangs that some teams utilise to argue with the ref could result in them losing four players at once, giving the opposition a chance to knock in a goal or two as punishment for abusing the position of the referee, which could be quite entertaining in itself.
I know PGMO would never agree to such a change, but Uefa could act. Although given that they are still handing out fines of just £25,000 for wholesale racial abuse, while Fifa ican have fans locked up in prison for three days for wearing the wrong t-shirt, I am not suggesting that this sort of change will happen. Only that it is one possible solution.
In fact I guess what I am saying is, is that that solution is out there, and thus there is no excuse for the bad refereeing that we have.
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The index of all the major articles on the Arsenal History website about Arsenal players is now complete. It comes in two parts:
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Of course there are many other sources of articles on Arsenal players but we do like to think that the articles here add a lot more detail, and we have often found stories and issues that have been missed in other reports. I do hope you will give us a try.