...and (along with his colleagues) found wanting by POOLIE KEV 


Now all football fans regard the man in black as a demon to be exorcised by relentless barracking, except on the rare occasions when he awards your team a dubious penalty, but the growing perception within the game is of a standard of officialdom in freefall. 

The four officials appointed to a game are wrapped in such ever-thickening swathes of cotton wool that even to comment on their performance almost guarantees banishment to the stands for the clubs manager, regardless of the fact that, as Neale Cooper once famously said, after a penalty award against Ben Clarke at Hull, such decisions are career shaping.

What actually caught my eye this season, after many seasons of frustration at the ineptness displayed by referees and their assistants, was the Nathan Luscombe affair. A simple 50/50 ball on the halfway line, two committed players going for it and both despatched for the crime of being competitive. Walsall decided to appeal, won the appeal, Pools decided not to and Luscombe parks his arse for three games.

In the bigger picture, we have this absurd ‘Respect’ campaign which is designed to do what? Some wishy-washy notion of everybody loving each other presumably, demonstrated by a token handshake for everyone where no-one meets each others eye. A façade, closely followed by ninety minutes showing exactly why referees aren’t respected."Now let’s say a player gets caught with a careless nick on the knee in a tackle. It’s painful and sudden. What’s he going to say? ‘Oh mercy me, that’s painful!!’ Hardly."

A look at the statistics last night showed me that in League one, after 5 league matches and a handful of Carling Cup games, there have been 92 bookings and 11 sendings off so far this season. What’s going on on the pitch, full scale shock and awe warfare? Like all echelons of British society, football is no exception to the tsunami of new ways to offend and one can be booked even for removing ones shirt. Quite why this offends enough to get you halfway off the pitch puzzles me in the extreme but the authorities deem it offensive and their puppets in black duly wave the cardboard. I find it incredible that in one game between Notts County and Tranmere this season there was thirteen bookings, two of them second bookings resulting in sendings off. This was in a game which featured thirty seven fouls. Is this League One or the Uruguayan Sunday League??

Now let’s say a player gets caught with a careless nick on the knee in a tackle. It’s painful and sudden. What’s he going to say? ‘Oh mercy me, that’s painful!!’ Hardly. It’s going to be something somewhat more graphic than that. Into the book he goes for foul and abusive language. Two minutes later, he rounds three tackles, chips the keeper in front of his home fans and waves his shirt round his head in celebration or jumps into the crowd and he’s off. How can that engender respect? Reactions to pain and elation are crimes?? Seemingly so.


But the rules aside, sometimes it’s the application of them that has many fans shaking their heads in disbelief. Recently one of Pools' opponents was booked for a foul and the game restarted with a bounce up. Now even occasional observers know that a foul results in a direct or indirect free kick and a bounce up is for an inadvertent stoppage such as an injury. Are these gadgies allowed to re-write the rules?? Seemingly so.

I listen to the apologists, such as Jeff the Ref, who I realise has been to the very zenith of the game and will admit to making his fair share of errors with a wry smile, and I also understand that these decisions have to be made in the split second allowed. I understand that the relentless examination and re-examination by TV and digital media allows for crucifixion of a poor decision. I also allow that the officials are merely human and will not get every decision correct but is 90% too much to ask for?

At full time the ref can simply walk away. I know he has an assessor and a report will be submitted and possibly words exchanged but the result will stand. Much like the judiciary handing out lighter sentences if you plead guilty earlier, if you shut up and sit down your sentence won’t be heavier. This is simply not fair as it precludes the ability to protest one’s innocence in a split second decision that can be expensive and potentially damaging to a career. Don’t hit me with the cliché that these things balance themselves out over a season, they shouldn’t even begin to become an accepted part of the game.

So in a nutshell, players, managers, fans and even casual TV viewers have to put up with the decisions of men who sometimes see themselves as more important than the sport. If we can get to the stage where they believe they are integral to the sport rather than in some ivory tower looking down on it we can all move onwards.

My message to FIFA, EUFA, the FA, the Football League and referees themselves is that, as in life, Respect is not a given, it has to be earned.