Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Give the refs a break

Two games took my attention over the weekend. Firstly I saw Felinheli battle to a
3-2 win over Llanrug Utd Reserves at Cae Seilo. Then on Sunday I watched the highlights of Cardiff v Leeds on Soccer Sunday, a programme which has now remained true to its extraordinarily low production values for the past 10 years.

Both games were were seemingly dominated by a refereeing performance, when this need not have been the case. In Felin's game, 2 early red cards reduced both teams to 10 men during the first half, for no apparent crime greater than a bit of push-me-round-Charlie. The rest of the match saw some unfathomable decisions, particularly the lack of even a yellow card for Ricky Fic when he pole-axed Llanrug's centre forward in the final minute as he strode away towards our goal.

In Cardiff's game, the decisions were equally bizarre, and even more match-defining. Mark Clattenburg's performance was incomprehensible. Walton was sent off for being nudged off the ball, and Leeds escaped without a caution for a handball which prevented an on-target header from reaching the goal-line.

Dave Jones' after match press conference was spent attacking the referee. At Felin, the local and well-known referee was berated for the full 90, and a little beyond. No more than at any other game in the country, mind you - just the usual stuff.

But do they deserve this abuse? These are men who turn up for the love of the game. As far as I am aware, no referee tries to get it wrong. So from 180 minutes of football, with lots of mistakes and errors on both sides, the only one who is publicly abused is the referee, who earns a fraction of the professional salaries in Clattenburg's case, and a tenner for petrol in the local ref's case.

Last week, Paul Jewell went public and complained that referee Phil Dowd had sworn at his players. Well diddums. It is hard to think of a more ridiculous complaint in the modern game.

So where is the referee's right of reply? Who stands up for the ref? Not other referees unfortunately. Theirs is a lone furrow, and they are quick to criticise the mistakes of others in order to raise their own standing.

And certainly not the media. Any correct referee decision is praised almost grudgingly, as if they were lucky that time, but just you wait, they'll cock it up soon.

Sometimes I would love to hear the ref's version of events. As I recall, Sky used to have Neil Midgeley in the studio to give a ref's point of view. But he was soon ditched as the controversies were quashed far too sensibly and quickly.

But what did Clattenburg see in Walton's "dive"? Was it his angle? Could he tell there was no contact? Tell, us please.

And as far as I am aware, Donal Courtney, the fourth official who awarded Jonny Wilkinson's try against Scotland has not yet explained his contrary decision. I am curious. The unexplainable should be explained.

AS for the Felin game, Terry the ref said that Andy used his head in the stag rutting game. Fair enough, it's his call, let's move on.

And David Jones might prefer to criticise his millionaire centre forward who struck a tame penalty, or his millionaire striker who will receive another suspension for lack of discipline. Or Paul Parry for poor finishing. Or Walton for his first half yellow. But no, it's the ref that gets it.


Gareth said...

I understand what you're saying, but at Bodedern our Chairman is a former referee himself, and he's usually hurling abuse at Officials. Similar scenario with Gwyn Pierce at Bangor City really.

Jet Set Matt said...

A big hello from the Llandudno Jet Set, a cracking read as always, keep up the good work Phil.