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Friday, 26 November 2010

The Industrial Refolution

*Honorary northerner and fellow York City fan Alex Moore makes his Magic Spongers debut with an impassioned support of the man with the whistle who may or may not be of dubious parentage.

The more I think about it, the more I love the idea of referees going on strike. They are like slaves, constantly belittled by their masters and endlessly derided in public. The ugly face of an otherwise beautiful game. Never respected, and NEVER given a voice of their own. Until now. So fuck you Neil Lennon. Fuck you Steve Bruce. And fuck you Tony Pulis.

As if our referees’ lot in life wasn’t already bad enough, Pulis has recently argued for a voting system which will give managers a direct input into the assessment of officials. Under his proposed system, each manager will get both an annual vote and the opportunity to assess their referee after every game. At the end of the season the three referees with the poorest overall scores will be ‘relegated’ to the Championship. Their counterparts with the highest scores in the Championship will replace them. It sounds like a reasonable system: after all, a bit of competition surely has to be a good thing, right?

Pulis is presumably unaware, however, that an almost identical system has been tried before – and was a complete disaster. In the early days of the Premier League the two relevant managers were required to mark their referee out of ten at the end of every game. The problem was, of course, that whenever a manager was on the receiving end of a decision they didn’t like they gave the referee zero points. The system wasn’t objective in the slightest. The competition wasn’t fair. The FA eventually scrapped the scheme because it was a complete farce.

Referees are still assessed of course, just not by the completely biased managers. In fact, they are assessed every game by two independent – and therefore more objective – adjudicators. The first is a former referee who judges the referee on the technical side of the game – were the decisions technically the correct ones given the laws of the game? The second is a former pro whose job it is to decide whether the referee ruled in the spirit of the game and encouraged play to flow. The two judges therefore assess the referee on the two elements we’d all like them to possess: technical knowledge mixed with a bit of common sense. On first reflection, it seems like a more sensible scheme than the old one.

And of course, IT IS. Pulis’ idea is completely preposterous. I’m sick of listening to managers ranting on in the interview at the end of every defeat about how the decisions didn’t go their way. Listening to two completely opposite accounts of the same decisions. How can managers possibly be impartial judges of referees? Personally, I’d be more in favour of a system whereby the referees can vote for their favourite managers. It might be the most effective way of getting Pulis out of the Premier League.

Referees are the heroes of the game, not the villains. And it’s about time the fans, managers and players began to appreciate that. Not to mention the FA. Whatever happened to the Respect campaign? Referees up and down the country officiate matches every day of the week, every week of the year. And the vast majority do it for what essentially amounts to zero pay. The top flight referees may be paid these days but does this really give us free reign to treat them as we like? When I make a mistake at work I don’t expect my colleagues to call me a bastard and question my masturbating habits. I certainly don’t expect security to have to escort me out of the building at 5 o’clock every evening.

And this is why the referees’ strike is so genius. Because with no referee, there is no game. It’s a cliché, but an all too often forgotten one.


  1. Referee's are the heros of the game - Really? No one pays to watch the referee.

    I agree that some managers use the referee as an excuse for their own shortcomings all to often but this article takes it too far. Reffed a few games have we?

  2. Whoever commented above seems to miss the point completely. "no one pays to watch the referee" and therefore he is not the hero. That makes him more of a hero surely you bafoon? Because unlike the players and the managers he doesn't get paid millions of pounds to do his job. Magic spongers you are spot on with this one.

  3. Oh no, someone on the Internet called me a "bafoon" (it's buffoon, by the way). Will I ever recover from this?

    Why do people always go on about how much footballers (and managers) get paid? The vast majority of them would still be in the game even if their talents limited them to lower leagues (or even the amateur game).

    Refereeing is not some form of community service so I assume the officials turn up because they want to (dare I even say they enjoy it).

  4. Apologies if I upset you, which I clearly have. And many thanks for correcting the spelling - unlike yourself I didn't have the time to edit my comment in Word. Further apologies if I appeared to criticise your favourite players for earning lots of money - this wasn't my intention, I simply wanted to point out that referees didn't. Feel free to continue wearing your England shirt with "Rooney 10" on the back with pride

  5. have either of you baboons heard of the appeal law? Great way to help the guy in the middle doing the community service and keep Rooney's army of followers content at the same time ...

    (apologises for the spelling - no time to do this in word!)

    Not so Anonymous