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4th September 2017

The start of a new season usually sees the introduction of tweaks to the laws of the game and new directives for players and clubs. This year there hasn't been too many radical amendments, however we usually see an escalation of cards as early season clampdowns are evident.

That's all well and good if standards are set and then consistently applied every week. Last time around there was a clampdown on dissent but as the season progressed we saw many occasions where match officials returned to their old ways of turning a blind eye/ear to the verbal abuse hurled at them.

It has been announced that the clubs have been warned against taking their frustrations out on fourth officials; only time will tell whether that situation is controlled without the necessity for managers/coaches to be sent to the stand. I'm not holding my breath on that one.

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I believe that everyone was made aware, again, that reckless challenges will be dealt with by card, the colour dependant on the severity of the challenge.

I don't think that anyone would disagree that the type of challenges that endanger the safety of opponents need to be stamped out but at times it does appear the art of tackling is being outlawed especially as some officials work on a career preserving approach of being perhaps a little excessive in their interpretation rather than be seen as being weak.

Not every tackle is a foul, not every foul is a yellow card and most definitely not every hard challenge is a red card.

Boro's Adam Clayton is already well on the way to his first suspension of the season having picked up four cautions in Boro's first five games. On the opening day of the Premier League season Chelsea's Gary Cahill saw red for what was a dangerous tackle that wasn't malicious but that set the standard and at least players should be aware that if they go in with studs raised or jump into tackles they run the risk of being dismissed.

Awareness is one thing but not doing it in the heat of the battle is another thing altogether. I can never understand why players continue to remove their shirts after a goal, fully aware that they are going to be cautioned and then leave themselves one mistimed tackle away from being sent off. Even more bizarre was Raheem Stirling's decision to go into the crowd after already being booked.

The subject of the second yellow card is always a difficult one, because as a referee you have to be able to sell that decision, you don't want it to be for a technical offence such as dissent or timewasting, but if you let a player off because he's already been cautioned then it makes it difficult to then administer a card to another player especially an opponent who does the same thing.

What a referee doesn't need is players making the decision making process even more difficult for him by totally overreacting to challenges and trying to get opponents into trouble.

The threat of a retrospective suspension for diving (simulation) appears to have improved the behaviour of players in the early weeks of the season but the play acting doesn't seem to have improved. As it stands appeals can't be lodged for yellow card offences, so if a player has been dismissed for two yellows then they have to serve their suspension, opponents therefore single out players already on a card to try and get them sent off.

It's just another form of cheating and post-match action against the culprits should surely be introduced to try and eradicate those who grab their faces or roll around grabbing their 'pretend' broken legs after little or no contact.

Offside will always continue to be a contentious subject and recently Boro have had two last minute brushes with the confusing Offside Law that were result changing.

Not too many grounds for complaint at The City Ground when Britt Assombalonga's last minute 'equaliser' was correctly ruled out as he made sure that Rudi Gestede's header entered the goal.

A week earlier Sheffield United were denied a point at The Riverside as a very alert Assistant's flag cost the away side a perhaps undeserved point. We were talking millimetres here let alone inches, feet or yards.

To the letter of the law the assistant was right, but from 40 yards away another day with another official the flag may well not have gone up. That isn't a lack of consistency - it just emphasises how difficult it is in real time to get offside decisions right on every occasion.

The old saying that hopefully decisions even themselves out over a season may well be correct but the same Boro fans that were rejoicing Sheffield United's goal being chalked off were livid when Boro missed out at Birmingham City in the promotion season after a Lino got it wrong.

New season maybe, but the same problems and fans disagreeing with refereeing decisions will never change.

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