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JEFF IN THE SUN ONLINE
NEW SYSTEM WILL TAKE TIME TO PRODUCE QUALITY

13th November 2017

Arsene Wenger has this week complained that the standard of decision making is getting worse. Whilst many Arsenal supporters perhaps are more concerned about the fact that his managerial abilities are also on the slide.

Even in the good days Wenger always had very selective eyesight, never seeing clearly when decisions went his way but always ready to jump at any opportunity to blame match officials when he perceived an injustice against his own side.

Nothing seems to change there then.

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As has always been the case, match officials are expected to be perfect and never make a mistake whilst players make human errors in every game.

'Refs decisions cost mangers their jobs' is a popular cry and whilst hindsight and much debate can suggest that teams do suffer when the officials get it wrong I will always maintain that during the course of ninety minutes the players have the opportunities to have much greater influence on the result of the game.

Those who support Wenger's view will have ammunition as England do not look likely to have any refereeing presence at next year's World Cup in Russia. This though is not due to a falling in standards but more to do with the short sighted mismanagement by the refereeing overlords at both the FA and the PGMOL who have the responsibility to ensure that the reportedly 'top' league in the world has the best officials.

In recent years the appointments of Howard Webb and Mark Clattenburg to the top games both internationally and in European club football suggests that we still produce match officials of the highest calibre. We perhaps don't have as many officials capable of doing the biggest games domestically as we did in previous years but our best continue to be a match for any officials throughout the world.

The fact is that in recent seasons the FA have been unable to nominate the full allocation of referees to the FIFA list due to the Premier League not having enough officials that qualify through age and to a lesser extent experience.

In the defence of our system as opposed to other countries, with around 30,000 referees in the country it does take longer to get through the promotion system and get to the Premier League to gain the necessary experience to get onto the FIFA list.

In recent years referees have been retained into their mid-fifties which clubs are happy about as they are the most experienced officials and even Wenger admits that there is no problem with their physical fitness. That though prevents younger refs from coming through and when they do promote too soon as we have seen examples of refs not coping and getting severe criticism and demotion.

There is no doubt we have some top quality match officials, however just like with clubs and players some are better than others. The players at Manchester City are better than at Crystal Palace and their respective league positions support that. It's no different with referees - some are better than others and the newly promoted refs, just like players at promoted clubs, take time to adjust to the higher level.

That will never change, in much the same way as home grown younger players rarely get the chance to perform regularly in the Premier League because the pressure to get results means that managers daren't risk them. The pressure from everyone to have the best referees reffing the top games also means that it takes too long for them to get their chance.

There isn't a simple quick fix solution, but the present situation was forecast when I was refereeing and little was done to prevent the situation we have today. The instigation of a second tier of professional referees in the Championship is a step in the right direction but this will take time to produce officials capable of following Webb and Clattenburg to the very top of their profession.




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