United-Liverpool Fracas Exposes Referee Double Standards

by Andrew McCarten

In 10 March’s edition of the Daily Mail, Wolves chairman Jez Moxey brought attention to one of the recent trends in the Premier League; the “haranguing of referees” by “the so-called bigger clubs with the more high-profile players who appear to think they are, at times, above the rules.”

Despite perhaps sounding a bit bitter given the bad luck Wolves have suffered this season, it must be said that Moxey raises a very pertinent and credible accusation, with the recent Liverpool-Manchester United match a good example. Every time there was a close call, players swarmed Phil Dowd, hounding him to pull out a card or realize his mistake. Van Der Sar and Rooney both enthusiastically protested Liverpool’s opener, which was indeed onsides, and the Carragher tackle on Nani, followed by Rafael’s tackle on on Lucas saw others again circle the man in black trying to influence his decision.

What does seem unfair, however, is the frequent way in which the league’s bigger personalities are allowed a spot at the referee’s side to argue their case, with Rooney, Vidic, Van Der Vaart, Ashley Cole, and Jamie Carragher the prime suspects. Famous personalities and club icons they undoubtedly are; but the Respect campaign is built on the referee being able to communicate with the captains of each side as well as the offenders, and it seems some officials are more lenient with bigger names. An irate David Silva motioning for a card does seem to be more effective than the same appeal from the likes of Richard Stearman or James Beattie, and it is unfair that because one player has a higher profile that it should affect decision making in matches. In the FA’s official guide to “Working with the Ref,” the captain is advised that the official will “deal firmly with any open show of dissent…(especially) harassment and challenging.” Harassment includes “running towards the referee in an agressive manner” and “players surrounding the referee to protest a decision.” Challenging’s defintion includes “gestures that are obviously made in a derrogatory manner” and “continually asking the referee questions about decisions made obviously in an attempt to undermine his/her position.” If actually enforced in most Premier League matches, it is safe to say matches like United-Liverpool would have to be abandoned.

In Tottenham’s 3-3 draw away to Wolves, Alan Hutton brought down Nenad Milijas in what seemed to be a clear cut last man back red. Immediately after the decision was made by Mark Halsey for a penalty, Huerelho Gomes, Jermaine Defoe, Steven Pienaar and Sandro all protested, surrounding the referee, with Luka Modric even making a late beeline into the crowd to plead for Hutton. But the flow of matches and overall player-referee relations will be bettered if the mobs surrounding the officials, like packs of lawyers pleading their cases, are suitably dealt with, and in time eliminated.

2 Responses

  1. Ash Robbins says:

    I wrote a blog post the other week which disagrees with Jez Moxey’s quote completely.

    I do agree that harrassing the referee is wrong, but I don’t agree that it’s limited or more frequent amongst bigger players/teams.

  2. Ad says:

    I agree that officials do favour bigger clubs when it comes to big decisions and when lesser clubs feel hard done by it is justified in my opinion.

    Football as a sport is flawed and always will be unless radical changes are imposed. There are several angles to this debate and I believe that the issue has gone too far now to be able to claw back a fair playing environment.

    Consistency is never going to exist in football. If referees stuck to the rule book in every game then there would be sendings off, penalties and most probably riots.

    Shirt pulling happens during every set piece. Shirt pulling is a yellow card offence. During the very first corner of every game, 22 cards should be issued if rules are to be abided by.

    Using offensive language is too, and my experience in lip reading suggests that referees deal with their share of expletives and give players the benefit of the doubt 95% of the time.

    Consistency would ruin the game in essence, which is why referees try to balance out decisions and the balance is usually flawed and favour usually leans towards the more influential and appealing side on show.

    There needs to be a sensible flexibility whereby there is a consistency in refereeing decisions. What frustrates most football fans is that there is no consistency in todays game.

    A given player will consistently trip, push and at times, wipe out another player and he may complete 90 minutes without receiving a card. Another player on the other hand, could make his first mistimed and non-malicious challenge in the latter stages of a match and receive a booking.

    The point above is well met, there does seem to be a unfair allocation of decisions that go in favour of smaller clubs but I do think that the problem is unfixable without drastic and game changing consequences.

    Referees have a tough job, impossible even, and the theatrics and cheating nature of players doesn’t make matters any easier.

    I do not agree with Sepp Blatter that football is better with errors, but I don’t think that football will ever be a fair and honest sport. To meet such a milestone would mean every player and official has to be honest and accurate, which lets face it is never going to happen in a million years!

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