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New respect initiative, yet no incentive to improve quality of match officials

The new initiative made by the FA in the close season seems to be working from what we have seen in the opening four games of the 08/09 season. Referees are no longer being surrounded by a whole team in outrage of a bad decision and managers seem to be content to show more of a regressive display towards match officials. However, is this really improving the standard of refereeing in the country or is it just putting less pressure on mistake-prone officials? Seemingly, the latter is proving to be correct.

Take Derby v Sheff Utd last Saturday. With the score at 1-1, Matthew Killgallon brings down Rob Hulse in the box. The referee correctly awards the penalty. However, after much dispute from the Sheff Utd team, the referee consults his linesman. After a lengthy discussion, the decision was overturned and a corner was given, this happening despite the linesman not making any sort of gesture when the initial foul took place.

A similar situation occurred in Sunday’s Premier League encounter between Stoke and Everton. The referee points to the spot for a clear handball, well inside the box. However, the linesman – who was merely five yards away from the incident – deemed it to be just outside the area. The referee decided to agree with his colleague and changed the verdict to a free-kick. Had it not been for Everton’s strong mentality, the better team would have walked away with one point instead of three.

I firmly believe that the problem is down to the fact that match officials are given no motivation to improve whatsoever by their bosses. If a player makes a costly mistake or does not perform well in a match there is no doubt that his manager will give him a warning about his performance. In turn, the player will work twice as hard to prevent himself from losing his place in the team.

If the FA refereeing committee shared the same philosophy the actual performance of match officials would definitely improve.

The argument that officials’ jobs are extremely difficult is over-rated. To consider they have to make two or three big decisions a week does not compare to a player who is judged five times a week in training and during the match on the weekend. This is purely an excuse to cover up officials’ mistakes that cost jobs and toy with fans’ emotions week in, week out. Yet they go UNPUNISHED and thus far no policy has been created to improve the standard of refereeing…

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