Why is refereeing in England so different from rest of Europe?

By Tony Attwood

Recently I read the story that a junior referee was “badly let down” by FA officials after he reported being verbally abused by adult coaches.

In this report (one of many of the type) a campaigner for better refereeing reported that Max Ormesher, a 15 year old brave enough to take on refereeing, said he was scared to give evidence in front of the enquiry panel,  but was warned he could face a misconduct charge if he failed to appear before the enquiry.

Ryan Hampson, 19, who led a strike over the treatment of referees, said the FA “should hang their heads in shame”.  In this case the Lancashire FA denied threatening the boy and ruled the case “not proven”.  And so nothing happened.

Using their system of always taking each case as an individual event, rather that looking for patterns, they let it go and so this system of protecting the system, run by old men who have been in the system for years, continues to run on and run.

Jump over to the big arena and we read that while England “wells up in protest against VAR”, VAR has been cleared for use at World Cup.    Fifa says the potential Premier League rejection ‘not a major issue’, presumably on the basis that they are always outside of the mainstream when it comes to refereeing.

“In defiance of a growing backlash against the introduction of Video Assistant Referees to the sport, the International Football Association Board took the historic decision to incorporate them into the Laws of the Game at its annual general meeting at Fifa’s Zurich headquarters.”

And I suppose to the Telegraph writer all one can say is, you should not believe all your read in the English papers.

“Gianni Infantino, the Fifa president, also vowed to forge ahead with plans to use VAR at this summer’s World Cup, even though he and his fellow IFAB voters conceded two years of trials had failed to eliminate some of the teething problems that saw it branded “an absolute shambles” during Tottenham Hotspur’s FA Cup fifth-round replay win over Rochdale.”

Except that what Fifa seems to be saying is that the shambles is of the Premier League’s officials own making, in part because they have come into VAR a year later than most and in part because their refereeing is “a shambles”.

Just to see how far the Telegraph will take this we can take that it added that the vote of IFAB (the organisation that changes the rules of football – and which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland, representing the founders of the game and of international football, and Fifa representing, well, Fifa) “was described as ‘unanimous.”

By which I meant to point out that “unanimous” was placed in inverted commas by the Telegraph.   Which raises the question, when is a unanimous vote not a unanimous vote?  The fact is the one person who might have been inclined to vote against it was the chief executive of the Welsh FA, Jonathan Ford.  He later said in an interview that he had been “sceptical” beforehand but had been won over by “overwhelming” evidence from about 1,000 VAR matches worldwide.

But perhaps the point Fifa were trying to make was that PGMO didn’t get a vote.

Infantino of Fifa and Martin Glenn of the FA have how each allegedly stated that a rejection by the Premier League during a vote of its clubs “would be a major issue”, but have also said using VAR “would make even more sense” in “the most valuable league in the world”, where “a bad decision has got disproportionate cost”.

A final decision on using video technology at the World Cup will be taken by Fifa shortly and of this Infantino said he would propose its introduction saying, “The most important competition in the world, which is the World Cup, in 2018, can certainly not afford to be decided on a potential mistake of a referee. We are living in a digital age, a fast-paced age, and we cannot be oblivious to technological advance.”

What’s more big-screen replays of incidents that are decided by VAR will be shown in this summer’s world cup.

The chief executive of the Welsh FA, Jonathan Ford, confirmed he had been “sceptical” beforehand but had been won over by “overwhelming” evidence from about 1,000 VAR matches worldwide.

So why does England stand alone?   Is it because

a) PL referees are so silly that they just can’t operate the system properly

b) PL officials want to hide what is going on in PGMO refereeing (either in terms of its incompetence or its corruption)

c) Everyone else is wrong and the PL is right – as is the case when it comes to how one organises refereeing in a senior competition?

Referees across the Continent: just how different is the PGMO from everyone else?


8 Replies to “Why is refereeing in England so different from rest of Europe?”

  1. We have seen and heard how PGMO referees manage a game of football with disregard to the laws / rules of the game and this is out of step with the rest of the world
    They say they do this to make the game more free flowing and exciting for the fans so consequently the players take big advantages of this style of refereeing but at European and international competitions the match changes dramatically
    The FA needs to accept we are out of step with the rest of the world in how football is run in the country but when you see what Brexit is doing do we have any chance sorry to bring in politics to this

  2. Out of step wth the of Europe you say.

    Will VAR be introduced into UEFA cup competitions next season ? Will it hell.
    Why’s that ? Well quite simply UEFAs view of VAR is a million miles away from the stance being taken by FIFA

    Tony implies we won’t have VAR in the PL next season that may be the case but we have no idea if that’s going to happen or not until the PL meets for its AGM which can’t happen till the make up of next seasons PL is known
    Never mind for we know for fact the VAR will be formally introduced around Europe next season do we?
    Well as things stand just one week after FIFA authorised it’s formal introduction no European league has yet confirmed that the will be introducing VAR next season. Although as I said elsewhere that will almost certainly change as the respective leagues have their annual rule change meetings

    So how did the VAR trials go in Turkey ,Spain, in Switzerland etc or how about Scotland, Wales or in Northern Ireland you know those other permanent members of the IFAB. Think about that and then factor in what Tony is saying you know the bit about the PL being out of step with the rest of European football
    The answer is other than a very small number of European Counties the vast vast majority of leagues haven’t even dipped their toes into the water as Walter has pointed VAR dont come cheap and the likelihood is that unless others fund it will never be fully introduced into the vast majority of national leagues
    There is no doubt that there are problems with VAR to suggest there isn’t is just blinkered.
    VAR is problematic and more often than not will take subjective views on incidents, It will never be 100 % perfect and I know that’s not what is being suggested but never mind we have goal line technology which can’t be argued about so surely that now features in top level football every where. Does it hell.
    Goal line technology unless it’s being reported incorrectly features in just 4 European leagues with a 5th rolling it out next season.
    So how where will those five leagues be located.? The answer is one each is Spain, Italy Germany and two in the Luddite country that is England.
    But never mind England out of step with the rest of Europe

  3. Apologies La Liga isn’t introducing goal ine technology till next season whereas it is in place in France.
    So next season it will be in 6 European Leagues 2 of which are based in England

  4. @Mike T,

    So how did those trials go? You know my IFAB decided to support it:

    “Included in Saturday’s media briefing were details of a year-long study that was conducted by Belgian university KU Leuven. The study revealed that VARs were used by over 20 member associations and competitions, in 972 competitive matches, and 693 friendly, training, and youth matches around the world. As a result, the accuracy of reviewable decisions increased by 5.8 per cent to 98.8 per cent. The average playing time lost due to VAR was only 55 seconds.”

    Problem just might be the operator, not the system.


  5. Jerry

    Tony’s article wasn’t talking about the outcomes of VAR it was trying to ridicule English football and in particular the Fa, PL and PGMOL for being out of step with the rest of Europe what I was trying to do was point out that elsewhere things are no where near as advanced or as clear cut as he is alluding to
    There is no doubt that VAR will improve outcomes but the question then is at what cost.
    I know you point to the average time taken being 55 seconds and yes that in isolation sounds ok but bear in mind that many of the reviews take far less than that meaning some take far more indeed I believe in Portugal some have takien as long as 4 minutes. It is not unusual for additional time at games where they have had cause to use VAR on more than the average 3 incidents per game to extend to around 7 minutes a game
    To date we have had what 19 competitive games in England where VAR has been used there havent been any technical issues like the ones in Germany where communications between the ref and the Cologne centre went down and yes you are right the refs have made a pigs ear of it in England but that has been the case just about every where in the early stages of their trials
    Personally I have only been at 2 games where VAR was being used. At the ground we had no idea what was going on and that lack of transparency crops up as a concern time after time as being an issue . Watching the highlights of the game afterwards it was clear that the officials weren’t comfortable with the process some may say thats exclusive to English football but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

  6. There is no need for VAR in a system that makes up Laws as it goes along. The EPL, FA & the PGMOL are exactly that. The improvised jazz in football officiating. Somewhere in the mix there are Laws but how they fit the beat varies from match to match.

    VAR if trialled properly must be transparent from the start. The footage being used should be broadcast to the onfield screens so that the paying public understand he decision process. We see the game & should see why a decision is reached, just as we see where cheating wins fouls. Anything secretive allows for corruption to continue.

  7. Menace

    I agree 100% about the transparency but the next bit gets difficult. Not as many clubs as you would suspect have big screens indeed Old Trafford doesn’t have them.
    Ok the rules could be changed in England and the cost for clubs in the PL probably wouldn’t be prohibitive but would top flight clubs in say Scotland be able to afford them.? As we know if English football went it’s own way there would be many particulary on Untold that would see it as a negative.Based on the fact that the SPL have said there is no way that they can afford goal line technology big screen installation seems unlikely that along with the fact most leagues in Europe will probably never have the infrastructure in place needed to deploy VAR at all games .
    But I do agree as I said in my first paragraph there has to be more transparency so as a minimum I would think that broadcasting the discussions over the PA could help but can you imagine the games at Swansea where to be PC the broadcast would be first in English then translated into Welsh. Now that would be interesting

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