The standard of refereeing in the Premier League has long been a matter of great debate. It is all too easy to criticise referee’s but as you watch pundits and analysts show eight replays of an incident in super slow motion before lambasting a referee for not spotting that a centre-half actually got a toe-end on the ball before making contact with the man, one ought not forget the circumstances in which referees operate. Officials are required to make split-second decisions in real time from a single angle. As a consequence, I for one have always sympathised with the man in the middle and the often thankless task they are asked to carry out. After all, how often do you turn the TV on to witness a pundit waxing lyrical over a refereeing decision? Rarely, I suspect.
This season though, I must concede that Premier League officials appear to be doing their best to avert my sympathies. As football fans we must appreciate that referees will make mistakes, and sometimes they will cost your side. However, these errors appear to have become more prevalent than ever this season, and in some cases, quite astounding. Pointing out individual cases seems a needless and rather laborious activity, given that the frequency of mistakes and inconsistencies is the real crux of the argument. Less than two weeks ago the former referees boss Keith Hackett criticised the current standard of refereeing. “I see standards falling,” said the 70-year-old. “Over the Christmas period, it reached standards that were bordering on appalling.” In light of some of the refereeing performances this weekend, the spotlight on referee’s is unlikely to let up anytime soon.
One way in which referees do not help their cause is in their silence on matters. By refusing to give reaction after games on a blanket policy; managers, players and fans alike can often feel as though referees shirk criticism and avoid accountability for the decisions they make. Having retired last season, Howard Webb was supposed to take up the roll of discussing decisions after games and explaining why certain calls were made, but even this hasn’t been introduced. We all know the tough task officials have but if they were to explain why they called certain incidents as they did, they’d introduce transparency and with that, increased sympathy and understanding.
Implementing such a simple change would benefit everyone but whilst it would increase accountability, transparency and understanding, it would not, of course, improve the actual standard of refereeing. Perhaps referees are doing all they can. after all the PGMOL claim that accuracy on major decisions is up to 95%, an all-time high. So do referees need increased help from their officials or is it finally time for assistance to be provided by video technology? Let us know what you think.