Should referees be given more help in order to improve?

Anthony Taylor wrongly sends off Carlton ColeEvery round of Premier League fixtures involves controversial refereeing decisions that makes fans and pundits alike question the standard of officiating in this country. From offside decisions to the failure to award a corner when it should have been, there is no end to the debate every weekend.

The fear is that it can only get worse because, after years and years of talking about the same incidents that result in the same decisions, there seems to be no improvement from the men in the middle, or even their assistants.

The recent festive period failed to disappoint. The round of fixtures before Christmas saw Anthony Taylor hit the headlines by sending off both West Ham‘s Carlton Cole and Everton‘s Darron Gibson for what were challenges worthy of yellow cards at most. Cole’s dismissal looked to have changed the outcome of the game with Everton going on to take all the points afterwards, and then Gibson’s red in the dying stages stunk of an attempt to level things out by Taylor.

Both reds have since been rescinded but West Ham will still feel aggrieved because they ultimately lost points from what was a poor decision. This is the harsh reality of what poor refereeing does – it costs teams points, points that they can never get back.

Boxing Day brought up several more controversies and the managers who’s teams were affected look set to be fined for speaking out against the respective referees. All managers have a case to argue and all but Sir Alex Ferguson saw their team suffer as a result.

But how can things improve in the Premier League? It is clear a lot needs to be done and it could be said referees need more immediate policing. As it stands, the performances of officials are analysed on DVDs after games and, apart from more serious incidents, are not really punished for bad performances.

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One way to go about things would be to have someone in the stands watching the referee live, marking his performance, his decision making and his positional awareness. Then, when it comes to reading his match report he will have someone there to either agree or disagree with his reasons behind what he claims he did and did not see.

The official in the stands would also be able to speak with the referee during the game, giving his thoughts on incidents in order to aid a referee when his view isn’t particularly clear. This is already the job of the referee’s assistants and it should also remain that way, but with the help of a man who can see every that’s going on from an elevated view, there would be much less room for error.

We all makes mistakes, but we also tend to learn from them. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with referees at the moment. One mistake in a game can be acceptable, especially when you consider the speed at which the game is played as well as the fact officials don’t have the luxury of replays.

But, if a referee makes more than one mistake and subsequently costs a side a result, then they should be made to face the consequences. When a player makes a mistake and mis-times a tackle he is punished, so why shouldn’t referees receive the same treatment? After all, it is their mistakes that can prove just as costly to the outcome of a match as a player making a mistake and being sent off.

The argument in favour of a video referee also has significant substance behind it because the referees will be able to have the help of someone who can see replays, just like in rugby and cricket. The fear of a video refereeing disrupting the flow of the game is fair enough, but adding on an extra few minutes to a football match in order to ensure decisions are made correctly doesn’t seem like much of a hindrance, does it?

The general consensus is that the majority of referees in the Premier League just aren’t good enough to handle the pressure of what is a stake in the game these days. Money, bragging rights and reputations are all on the line and can be won and lost on the basis of just one or two wrong decisions.

So unless some drastic changes are made to the way referee’s performances are analysed and even the introduction of some extra help from the stands, teams, players, managers and fans will continue to feel hard done by each and every week.

What do you think? Do referees need more training and even more help in order to erradicate serious mistakes, or should we accept that it’s what happens in football and move on? Leave your thoughts below.