officious politics

Are referees getting worse ?  Well, even the new ones coming into the Premier League appear to be ridden
with the same deficiencies that those who have been around for ages have picked up.  
Ted Maul looks at the reffing situation.

So, another inept performance by a referee costs Spurs the services of a player for three games for the second game in succession, with Younes Kaboul deserving to go, but the circumstance leading up to it might have had something to do with it.

After Jermain Defoe's sending off for an alleged elbow on James Collins, in a feat that took some doing considering the height difference between the two players, which was debatable, Younes had no excuse for reacting the way he did to a tackle that saw Tiote win the ball, but was there evidence that he used "excessive force". 

This term has entered the game and never used to be around.  "Intent" was the term used to determine whether the foul was a bookable offence or an accident.  Excessive force saw Rob Styles dismiss Mido for a foul in a game against Chelsea at the Lane back in 2005 and it was the first time I had really heard it.  Nowadays it is bandied around with great abandon, along with the "reckless" or "out of control" tackle where players have feet off the floor.  Have referees not realised that sometimes the ball is not on the floor and if you are to go for it, therefore, your feet will not be on the floor.  There is nothing wrong with this tackle if it does not endanger a player's safety and Alan Hutton's booking at Villa was less than deserved, as he won the ball with a clean tackle.

But let's look at the basics of knowing when the ball is in or out of play to start with.  This is an art that assistant referees (who use to be called linesmen and that is all they are used for most of the time) have lost over the years.  As a ball approaches the touchline, they raise a flag without actually looking to see if the whole ball has crossed the line.  This is what the laws state when arbitrating on goals or even throw-ins and corners or goal-kicks.  There is no doubt from TV pictures that when Alan Hutton crossed for Younes Kaboul to score against Aston Villa, the whole ball had NOT crossed the line. 

If the linesman did not have a clear view, he was either in the wrong position or he could not see clearly enough to make an assured decision, so the presumption should have been that the ball was still in play if he could not categorically say it had 100% crossed the line.

But it is not the common practice that linesmen are asked to give many other things other than offside and then they are rarely in the right position to see whether a player was ahead of the last defender when the ball was played.  With the speed of the game, it is not always their fault, but positioning helps get those borderline decisions right.  So, for the linesman to make the decision to send Defoe off was one that was out of the ordinary, with him informing the ref over the microphone system they have to communicate with each other.  TV showed clearly that Atkinson went for yellow until told by the linesman that it should have been red.

Which is all the more surprising when there seemed little communication between Taylor and his two assistants in the Newcastle match.  Indeed, the decision making looked to be an arbitrary affair, with no consistency nor application of the laws of the game in any sense of the phrase.

Let's look at some of the main perpetrators in that game and how they got on ...

Andy Carroll
From the very start, his only thought was to go for every ball in the air ... whether he could win it or not.  if not, then he would at least unsettle the man marking him, who was usually Michael Dawson.  The long ball tactic of Newcastle failed to reap any reward, as it was not usually delivered well enough and a succession of free-kicks given against the new England striker showed that his use of his height and weight is not yet honed to perfection.  With a presence to worry defenders, he should not need to break up Newcastle attacks by giving away fouls.
However, following an early talking to by referee Taylor, he was then allowed to carry on fouling, until late on in the game when the referee decided that he deserved a yellow card and indicated five fouls he had previously committed.  I think that he must have left his calculator at home, as it was more than five, unless he was talking about after he had spoken to Carroll the first time.

Alan Smith
A faded promising star of the past, I had forgotten he was still at Newcastle, but he was re-instated in the side for one reason.  namely, to add further bite to the midfield.  And he went crashing into tackles as though his unfilled career depended on it.  I remember him getting sent off at the Lane for Leeds after performing in a similar way.  There were always hopes that he might be a major star, but even though he moved to Manchester United, he never reached the upper echelons of the game and he probably resents that. 
And the way he went in to take Bale out and then went after another tackle straight afterwards might indicate why he didn't make it to the level he should.  Paul Scholes gets criticised for his tackling, but this is a whole different kettle of fish.  how he stayed on the pitch ... only referee Taylor can say.

Joey Barton
Such an objectionable presence on the pitch, he ought to take to the field with a yellow card already to his name.  How he gets away with tackles that others don't is something I can't explain ... and it wasn't just against us, as he put in another possible ankle breaker against Wigan Athletic a few days later.
Making him captain might be an idea to instil some discipline in him, but the constant back-chat with the referee and when anything went against his side, he was straight at the referee and was laying hands on him.  Surely, this constitutes a lack of respect for the official ... or has the FA Respect campaign gone the same way as the FA's bid to host the World Cup ?

Chiek Tiote
I hadn't heard much about this player before seeing him at White Hart Lane in this match, but he proved to be a player who almost matched Barton for his propensity to wind up players and crowd alike.  His reckless tackling had Luka Modric beating his personal best in the high jump to avoid being hacked down and that was after Tiote had been booked.  The referee's allowance in letting him go around putting in tackles with excessive force ended with Kaboul sticking his nut on the Newcastle midfielder.  Not to exonerate the defender's actions, but perhaps a little more understandable when you are getting no protection from the match officials. 

Steven Taylor
A player who once went down like he had been shot by a sniper when the ball was stopped by his hand in the penalty area, he tries to take players down after the ball has gone or when he cannot keep up with them.  A player who, if referees could read the game, would spend a lot of time on the sidelines.

And when will referees get it into their thick skulls that what fans would rather see red and yellow cards for are the tackles which can seriously hurt players, rather than for celebrating a goal or time-wasting.  These are bookable offences too, but the ranking of a yellow for a tackle from behind carries the same weight as one for taking an eternity over a goal-kick.  There is something to be said for the old system of a variety of points for the severity of the offence and when you reach a certain total, then you get suspended, instead of just totalling five yellow cards.  It would be a fairer reflection of the severity of the offence the card was shown for and then the serial offenders would spend more time out of the game as befits their misdemeanours.

Will anything change ?  No, of course not, as the refereeing world is a small one and a cosy one, with refs like Clattenburg all chatty and on first name terms with the top stars, so they will do nothing to disturb the comfortable nature of the profession they have created for themselves.

Without any censure or promotion of relegation on the quality of their performances, we will see the same old faces for the foreseeable future and if there are any new faces like Atwell and Taylor, they will have been promoted way before their time and be as inconsistent and frustrating as those who have gone before.

Frankly, it almost makes you nostalgic for the likes of Uriah Rennie !!

Ted Maul

Back to homepage