Why is our refereeing so bad?

Published: Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Apologies first that we’re a day late with this week's blog. I spent the entire afternoon yesterday (Monday) with a long time friend that I hadn’t seen enough of in recent years.

So here we go. I’m depressed that talking about referees has become so common for all of us. Why on earth has this happened? How is it that referees have elevated themselves into a position where we’re talking about them more than we do the greatest game on the planet? It’s outrageous. I remember well the days when we’d congratulate an official on his performance because we hadn’t noticed him.

I’ve had an extra day to think about this. My conclusion is that they are now so bad that it’s impossible to ignore them. Honestly, I hate saying that, but after another shambles, both on the pitch and in the VAR bunker last weekend, how can anyone disagree?

I give you Mr David Coote. Here’s a man who recently failed a FIFA fitness test - along with Andy Madley. Granted - they both have subsequently passed - but, what does it say about the way we handle refs in the PL if they’re not fit enough to gain FIFA credentials?

Worse - last weekend Coote didn’t even have to run about. All he had to do was look at tv monitors (replay after replay) and come to the conclusion - like everybody else watching real time - that Tottenham’s Giovanni Lo Celso should’ve been sent off at Chelsea. No ifs. No buts. No maybes. Off. His challenge was clearly a red card offence. It was a career ending stamp. It was violent conduct. How hard can it be? What did Coote think he saw? ‘There was nowhere else for his foot to come down’ we were originally told. Please - I’m still laughing. Never mind trying to get onto the FIFA list - this man should never work again. He’s a danger. As Frank Lampard said - ‘it’s not good enough for the PGMOL to admit they were wrong’. Who made that decision anyway? Why don’t they tell us? And why was it made? Was it simply because the social media caught fire? My guess is Mike Riley was once again hanging about in the VAR bunker - as he is most weeks - wanting to make the final decision on everything, when he realised the gravity of the mistake.

Lampard was angry because he’d stood in the same place the previous Monday and watched Harry Maguire almost castrate Michy Batshuayi. That should’ve been red. The VAR bunker decided there was no case to answer. Really? How? I wonder what patsy-in-chief Peter Walton would’ve made of the challenge had he been working? Was it? Wasn’t it? ‘Hold on - I’ll wait until somebody tells me’. Honestly. Its pathetic. I’ve mentioned it here before - I was a huge fan of Dermot Gallagher’s - but not anymore. His credibility is shot as well. So too the other PGMOL apologist Chris Foy. Walton’s indecision was final at Chelsea. Why are these guys employed?

Let’s not forget how bad it got for Coote as he went onto make a mess of the game at Leicester. Why was he allowed anywhere near it after what happened at Chelsea?

If you think I’m being harsh - I’m sorry. These guys wanted VAR, promising to take us to a utopian land where they would get everything correct. They haven’t. They won’t. All it’s done is underline how bad our general standard of refereeing is - and who do we have to blame for that? You got it - the aforementioned Mike Riley.

Riley was a weak ref. Average at best. I’ll never forget him desperately trying to get Ashley Cole to give him his name in a match at Spurs one night. ‘Turn round Ash. Show me your shirt’ you could see Riley saying. Cole didn’t. Cole wouldn’t. Why for goodness sake? Riley knew his name, yet here he was trying to assert his authority but making himself look daft into the bargain

Riley got his job because he is a ‘yes’ man. Richard Scudamore appointed him to succeed the excellent Keith Hackett, largely because Riley would do as he was told. Scudamore was tired of trying to get refs to do his bidding. He failed with Philip Don, so he went. Hackett was never going to be told what to do. So, of course, he went.

Look at Riley’s record. He’s responsible for this VAR farce - stubbornly refusing to let referees use pitchside monitors. It’s Riley that’s given the PL two interpretations of handball - one for forwards, so they can find another reason to disallow goals, and another for defenders. This only happens in our league.

It’s Riley that refuses to use VAR to see if a keeper has moved from line in a penalty situation. We leave it to the ‘on-field’ officials. There’s something of an irony in that eh? And this only happens in the PL.

It was Riley that allowed the excellent Mark Clattenburg (a World Cup final ref) to cut short his career in England because he was so frustrated by the PGMOL leadership. So too Howard Webb, another World Cup final ref. Because of Clattenhurg’s ‘retirement’ we didn’t have one official at the last World Cup. It’s embarrassing.

Philip Don lost his job because Scudamore - and the clubs- were unhappy about the number of yellow cards flying around during his era. He didn’t do much else wrong - but he went. So how does Riley hang on?

This is a man that Scudamore was warned he shouldn’t employ. There’s a reference in Mark Halsey’s book ‘Added Time’ to a conversation Halsey had with Scudamore when the former PL chief admitted Riley was the wrong man - but he went ahead of employed him anyway.

As much as anything, it was this revelation that led to Halsey being black-balled by the PL and the PGMOL.

It annoyed both organisations deeply when they read a different passage in the book about Halsey being told to change his mind on the infamous clash at Stoke between Ryan Shawcross and Stephen Nzonzi. Stoke and Blackburn fans remember it well. Halsey didn’t see anything wrong with it, but was told by Riley at a subsequent refs meeting, that he should’ve shown red. Riley added that Halsey would be getting a call from the FA to ask if he would ‘change his mind’ if he saw the challenge again. Halsey said ‘no’,  Wrong answer. The ref added that he wasn’t very happy about being bullied over the incident either. I’m not telling tales here. It’s all in Halsey’s book. Read it for yourselves. It was Halsey being typically honest.

The book caused Halsey all sorts of problems. Despite originally being given permission by the PGMOL to write it, they subsequently withheld his exit package - a 5-figure sum - when he retired. The money would’ve allowed Halsey and his wife Michelle, who’ve both been cancer victims, to live the rest of their lives in relative comfort. We might never know who cost Halsey his job at BT Sport, but I’ve got a good idea. They now employ Peter Walton!

I mention Halsey because what happened to him is a modern day football scandal - made worse when you consider that Scudamore walked away from his very well rewarded job with a £5m pay off.

Halsey and Hackett are now the go to men if you want a no holds barred, straight forward, honest opinion about refereeing. Both should be involved in the VAR bunker. It’s a waste that they’re not. The same goes for Roger East and Lee Probert. Both retired last season and were told they were not good enough to operate VAR. But David Coote is? And I’m not singling Coote out because he had a shocker last week - I am genuinely concerned about the direction our refereeing is heading in whilst good men sit idle. These guys should be encouraged to become VAR specialists. Let the match day refs do their jobs - ‘assisted’ by VAR - which is how it works everywhere else in the world.

I’m keeping some gun powder dry because I’m assured change to VAR is coming - it will have to or the PL are going to lose their IFAB licence to operate it - but it will count for nothing if Riley isn’t removed from his post.

And if you enjoy both listening to and reading Mark Halsey - who was punished for his honesty - join me in my crusade to right a dreadful wrong. Let him and the PGMOL know what you think. They HAVE to pay him his exit package even if they don’t take him back into the fold.

And by the way Mike - you’d be amazed at how many of your current refs are constantly in touch with me about their frustrations. Why? Because I air them.

Sent from my iPhone