The Other Side of “Respect for Referees”

Generally I try to steer clear of criticising referees. I am a believer that they have a very difficult job and am in the camp that doesn’t like the analysing of decisions from all conceivable angles in super slo-mo by the experts on the television.

Despite this, I have to speak out about one particular referee who seems incapable of making a correct penalty decision.

I read an article recently by a journalist who attended the Watford versus Stoke City game at Vicarage Road a couple of weeks ago. In that article the writer condemned the Watford fans for the vitriol directed towards the match referee Rob Styles. He said that Rob Styles is a nice man and didn’t deserve the abuse. He may well be a very nice man, but in my opinion, he is a very poor referee.

In that game, Styles had sent off the Watford captain John Eustace for a dangerous tackle. The Watford fans were understandably upset, although video replays showed that Styles may have actually got that call right.

What the article didn’t go on to say was that Styles’ performance in the rest of that game was totally unacceptable. His demeanour and his decision making were all wrong. He upset the Stoke fans every bit as much as the Watford fans and awarded Watford a ridiculously soft penalty in the game.

Rob Styles was in the news earlier this season for the ludicrous penalty he awarded to Chelsea in their game at Liverpool. On that occasion Malouda ran into Steve Finnan from behind and Styles gave a penalty against Finnan. As a result of that mistake, Styles was demoted for a while. Referees supremo Keith Hackett said at the time as he demoted Styles from the Premiership, “It is just like with players, if they miss an open goal they are likely to be dropped.”

A few weeks later I was watching the West Ham against Manchester City clash in the FA Cup when Manchester City were attacking and their left sided forward player, Petrov, was running at Anton Ferdinand in the West Ham penalty area. He jinked inside and Ferdinand left his leg hanging, clearly catching Petrov and sending him tumbling to the ground. To his credit, Rob Styles was in a perfect position to see the foul but then amazed everyone in the ground by waving play on.

On Saturday Styles took charge of the Birmingham City versus Manchester City game. I don’t know how Styles has crept back into the Premier League, but he has obviously done so. With the score at 2-1 to Birmingham and the ball in Manchester City’s area, Sun Jihai and Gary McSheffrey challenged for the ball. McSheffrey leant into Jihai and ‘out muscled’ him in a perfectly fair shoulder to shoulder challenge. From a distance of only a few feet away Styles awarded Birmingham a penalty for a foul by Jihai.

This was a disgraceful decision. The panel on match of the day laughed at the unbelievable nature of it.

Unfortunately, none of these decisions are funny. Who knows what would have happened to Liverpool and Chelsea’s seasons if that penalty hadn’t been awarded? Who knows whether Manchester City or West Ham might have been in the FA Cup semi-finals if that penalty had been awarded? Who knows how Bolton feel after their nearest rivals in the relegation battle were struggling to hang on to their 2-1 lead over Manchester City but were then given the lifeline of that amazing penalty.

All of these decisions, and I won’t include the Watford penalty because Darius Henderson missed it anyway, could have had far reaching effects costing clubs millions of pounds and fans hours of unnecessary heartache.

In my opinion Rob Styles should not be allowed to referee in the Premier League any more. If that were to happen, he shouldn’t then be given Championship promotion battles like Watford and Stoke to referee either. He should be seriously and properly demoted.

Tottenham keeper Paul Robinson made a few mistakes earlier in the season and he temporarily lost his club place and more seriously lost his International place. That was right and proper. If you are not up to the job it should be taken away from you until you are.

Using Keith Hackett’s words, Mr Styles has missed several open goals this season and deserves to be dropped. He hasn’t displayed that he is up to the job and should never have been brought back to the top level.

Originally published at Graham Fisher writes at Views of a Fan.

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