New Season – Same Old, same old…

Once again, a new Premier League season has started and has already threatened to be overshadowed by the wrong decisions referees make.

In two high profile matches on the leagues opening day, there were three high profile incidents – with mistakes made in all three. After months of waiting and excitement building, the weekend left supporters feeling slightly subdued, giving a slightly anti-climactic feeling to the new season – not helped by the incompetent decision making of our referees.

I’m not suggesting for one second here that genuine mistakes cannot, and will not be made by officials. We’ve all heard the remit; they’re only human, they can’t see everything blah blah blah…and I agree, to a point. Similarly, the players themselves, especially here in two of the three incidents, are not totally blameless – far from it. If they acted in a responsible manner, then the officials wouldn’t need the eyes in the back of their heads they are so keen to point out they do not possess. Although quite why some linesmen….sorry referee’s assistants are there sometimes is anybody’s guess.

I do have some sympathy with referees, as mentioned, in particular instances – one of which was during Saturday’s heated draw as Newcastle United took on Arsenal at St. James’ Park. The game produced two of the three high profile incidents in which mistakes were made, the first of which involved that stranger to controversy Joey Barton, and Alex Song. For once, Barton was not at fault here, his calf being stamped on from behind by Song, off the ball. Whilst referee Peter Walton missed the incident (no fault of his own) a clearly incensed Barton drew his attention. However Song got away scot-free, which left Barton simmering. Now whilst it’s understandable that the referee missed the cowardly stamp by Song, it is not understandable how all four match officials missed it. Especially as it occurred close to the touchline where the fourth official resides, whose remit is now to watch the game for any incidents the referee may miss. What makes it worse is that this fourth official, Nigel Miller, is apparently a trained police marksman! Anyway, the incident was missed, sympathy for the referee as his ‘team’ of officials failed him, and Song should have received a red card leaving Arsenal with 10-men and Barton feeling justice had been served. As Song wasn’t punished, it probably led on to incident number two in the same game.

Gervinho, making his Arsenal debut received his marching orders for a melee that broke out during his alleged dive for a penalty, when in retaliation to some severe provocation from, you guessed it, Barton, he lashed out and ‘struck’ the so-called Newcastle hardman, sending him crashing to the floor clutching his face. Whilst the referee got it right in sending off Gervinho (if you raise your hands you should know what to expect), Barton the instigator should have received the same punishment for dragging the Arsenal forward up by the scruff of his shirt using ‘excessive force’ – one of the key ingredients in FIFA’s description for a violent conduct dismissal. Barton however escaped with only a yellow card for his part. Mistake number two. It is also worth noting that Gervinho’s penalty incident was a tough call, even showing replays I cannot make my mind up whether it is a penalty, or a dive. But if deemed a dive the referee, who waved play-on, should have stopped play and booked the Ivorian. However once Walton waived play-on, and Barton became physical with Gervinho ‘off-the-ball’, the officials would have been well within their rights to then give a penalty to Arsenal. Another mistake.

Onto the final major incident of the weekend which occurred at Anfield and involved Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson and the ever incompetent Phil Dowd. After a mistake from Richardson put Liverpool’s Uruguayan clean through on goal with only the keeper to beat, Richardson brought down Suarez inside the area just as he was in the process of rounding the Sunderland keeper. Dowd correctly awarded a penalty – but incorrectly left Richardson on the pitch, instead of giving him his marching orders for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. Dowd’s excuse? Suarez was moving away from goal. Newsflash Phil, that’s what players tend to do when attempting to round the keeper. It was a flimsy excuse for not having the bottle to make the correct decision only 4 minutes into the game, and whilst Liverpool missed the ensuing penalty, they should have been playing the remaining 86 minutes against 10-men.

It is these types of decisions which annoy fans and cost club’s valuable points and sometimes, managers their jobs. However referees for the most part, continue to be immune from poor play. New season, same old referees.

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