Though it wouldn’t be fair to call him English football’s answer to Mark Cuban — Selhurst Park being slightly less state of the art than Dallas’ American Airlines Arena — Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan (above) risks a fine & censure with his editorial on the state of officiating in Monday’s Guardian.
Why aren’t referees publicly accountable like the rest of us? We’re all scrutinised, but the referees are the only ones who take the fifth amendment as a routine. Why is an under-performing Premiership referee punished by being made to run Football League games? Is it less important to get things right in the lower divisions than it is in the Premiership?
And why don’t good referees in England feel supported enough to respond to dissent as calmly as Kim Milton Nielsen in midweek? His red card for Rooney was simple, confident and assured; but half the Premiership’s referees just take Rooney’s abuse, sending out stupidly mixed signals. Without consistent authority, the lunatics will take over the asylum and Wayne, while being a world-class player, can be a bit of a lunatic. If he told a policeman to fuck off, he’d be arrested. If he says the same to a referee – football’s authority figure – nothing happens and kids all over the country think he’s cool.
And when all these factors and more combine and bad decisions are made, why is the system for putting it right – the appeals process – so totally flawed? The FA are actually a step ahead of Fifa on this, but still a mile behind where they should be. Fifa believe red cards should be rescinded only in the case of mistaken identity, and criticised the FA for rescinding three of the first six of this Premiership season on the grounds of referee error. The implication is that Fifa want governing bodies and officials to save face for each other, however big the error. The FA are right, but they must go further. It has to become as easy to challenge a yellow card as a red and as easy for smaller clubs to successfully appeal as it is for the big three. We’ve never had a successful appeal, even backed by blatant evidence. And when the FA read this column, this attempt to be constructive, they’ll probably charge me with bringing the game into disrepute. No doubt if I appeal, I’ll lose that too.