Why FA Really Must Act with Refereeing Standards

Premier League referee Mark ClattenburgSo good old Harry Redknapp whose honest but frank assessment of the quality of refereeing over the controversial Nani goal which sewed up the points for Manchester United against Spurs last weekend, could have easily put the Tottenham boss into ‘deepish water’ with the FA, who could have imposed sanctions on him. However, they have clearly decided that discretion is the better part of valour in this instance, deciding to let the matter rest.

Redknapp ‘pulled no punches’ when describing Referee, Mark Clattenburg’s decision making as scandalous, when Nani clearly handled the ball before putting it into the net. The ball had been rolled out towards him by Spurs keeper, Heurelho Gomes in order for Gomez to take a free kick that he thought Clattenburg had given. Redknapp, amongst other comments, described the incident as “farcical” which ended any hopes his side defying the odds and taking anything away from Old Trafford.

The incident had overshadowed Spurs build up to what turned out to be a fantastic Champions League win over Inter Milan but Redknapp had threatened a media blackout if the FA decided to punish him for his comments, which also included a further remark that match officials usually colluded with one another after matches to ensure that they are ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’ after controversial decisions had been made.

It is not the first time that Clattenburg has been costly to Spurs. In 2005 he disallowed a Spurs goal, scored by Pedro Mendez which had clearly crossed the line, it was a goal that would have won the match for Spurs but they had to be content with a 0-0 draw. Incredibly that game too was against Manchester United at Old Trafford, which if anything should have meant Clattenburg not being appointed for the same fixture again – or is that common sense speaking?

Manchester United and England captain, Rio Ferdinand has made the comment that referee’s should be encouraged to give their versions of decisions made by them in matches, particularly when controversial incidents occur. He is not alone either in his point of view, after all referee’s are treated extremely professionally these days, they are paid very well, receive first class hospitality and are as important to football as any other component part.

There has been others who have called for referee’s to have had at least some professional football experience in a playing sense. Too many referee’s at all levels of football have never played the game themselves, preferring to officiate without ever realising the technicalities and skills involved.

Clattenburg, who apparently played football only for his school team for instance, took up refereeing in 1990 as part of a Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, becoming an assistant referee in 1990 in the Northern League at the age of 18. Most 18 year olds of course, with an interest in football would be playing the sport, but others having absolutely no playing experience at all, prefer to officiate, with many adopting a ‘holier than thou’ attitude as well as a dogmatic approach to each game.

Clattenburg is not alone in poor decision making; it is a long running fault that is inherent in football everywhere in the world. However, with so much at stake in top level football, then surely it is time for the FA to begin to encourage those footballers, who have perhaps retired from the lower level echelons of the game to take up the whistle. They don’t have to be Premier League players, nor even league players, but those who have played a good standard of football who can demonstrate that playing knowledge can easily be combined with the rules of the game to make for a far better referee.

It would surely be better than qualifying from a Duke Of Edinburgh Award Scheme – wouldn’t it?