Howard Webb is England’s top referee…really?

Howard Webb is already hated by Tottenham fans all over the country. Now he can add Liverpool fans to that list. After last week’s incident at the Emirates, where Webb refused to punish Cesc Fabregas’ blatant handball in the area, the decision cost Liverpool the game and intensified the battle for fourth place. Considering the amount of times Webb has screwed up in the past, is this really what we should expect from supposedly Britain’s top official?

After last Wednesday’s game, Steven Gerrard branded Webb’s decision as “crazy”, Rafa Benitez also said:

We are really disappointed with the decision of the handball. It was very, very clear. The players were on the line. It was a handball. It has to be a penalty if you see the replay.”

Even Fabregas admitted it should have been a penalty, saying:

‘There were so many incidents he got wrong. There were so many against us, so many against them. Maybe it touched my arm, yes, but I would have got my head to it anyway.’

Last week, Webb was selected as one of the 30 referees at the World Cup in South Africa, confirming his position as the country’s leading whistleblower. Also chosen was Martin Hansson, he who failed to spot Thierry Henry’s controversial handball against Ireland last year, so the level of competition can’t be that great.

Is Webb now trying to alienate another set of fans in Liverpool, as he has done with Spurs in the past? Supporters will remember the penalty he awarded at Old Trafford last season where Gomes was adjudged to have “fouled” Michael Carrick, which eventually led to Spurs succumbing to the champions in a 5-2 loss. It was such a bad decision that even Webb admitted he had made a mistake. Other decisions Webb has made to infuriate the Spurs faithful is failing to award them a penalty in January’s defeat to Liverpool, where Kyrgiakos virtually ripped the shirt off Peter Crouch’s back in the area and Jermain Defoe had a perfectly good goal ruled out for offside. Other high-profile Webb gaffes include failing to dismiss Stoke’s Dean Whitehead after kicking Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole high on the shin this month.

Ultimately, the Premiership’s top referee should not be making such high-profile mistakes. Whether it is just succumbing to the pressure and not wanting to anger 80,000 home fans; or it could just be complete inadequacy. Fans want to see the beautiful game officiated in the right way: fairly, properly and without bias. You can argue that every referee is human and makes mistakes, and sometimes Webb’s decisions are spot on, but if you are supposed to be England’s representative at the World Cup you are supposed to be consistently good and not be prone to awful decisions.

He might be going for the Pierluigi Collina look, but Webb  cannot be compared to the Italian in terms of officiating ability. Webb will have to prove he belongs in the upper echelon of referees at the World Cup but after the Graham Poll debacle in 2006, where he booked Croatian defender Josip Simunic three times, Webb’s stint in South Africa this summer can hardly be any worse.

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