Linfield manager David Healy is the latest Irish League manager to come out and openly criticize match officials following his side’s 0-1 Co Antrim Shield Final defeat at Seaview last night.
Following on from last Friday evening’s very public thumbs down for the men in the middle from Glenavon boss Gary Hamilton, it’s clear frustration is growing, as pressure mounts in the ever-increasingly competitive, local environment.
Of course we rarely hear complaints, let alone praise for the men in black from a winning manager, but also fair to say there have been some high-profile gaffes recently such as the twice-struck penalty furore at Solitude, the mistaken identity dismissal at Mourneview, and a catalogue of errors again at Mourneview last Friday evening.
Speaking to Linfield’s official website after last night’s game Healy said, “I thought it was a foul for the goal. I thought Jordan was pushed at the back post. You could clearly see that. But no surprise tonight for me to be honest, [given] the official’s performance, that we didn’t get it, but it is what it is.”
Healy’s frustration extended to the decision to play-on after Fuad Sule and Jordan Stewart clashed, centre pitch. The Linfield manager clearly felt there was a foul on his player and sounded perplexed that no free-kick was awarded.
It certainly looked a fierce coming together probably made worse by Stewart’s worryingly swift collapse to the artificial turf, clutching his leg. But suggesting it was anything more than a 50/50 challenge might be stretching things, although the Larne man appeared more the aggressor.
The Linfield manager might well have a case. He was closer than I was and it’s very difficult to determine exactly from certain vantage points, but often you can tell from the reaction of players around the incident, and none were up in arms.
Still, Healy had difficulty suppressing his feelings, “We talk about the improvements in this league, but the standard... and I spoke to Tony [Clarke, the ref] at the end, and he said, ‘You’re trying to put this on me,’ which I wasn’t.
“I explained to him I thought it was a really poor challenge. I spoke to the player who made the tackle and again he’s not that type of player. He’s hard and he’s fair, Sule, but I just thought things tonight... and again watching the officials leaving here smiling, laughing, joking... Enjoy your night, lads. Well done.”
Sensing post-match raw emotion is priceless to fans and frankly provides good box-office, but there are certain barriers which shouldn’t be crossed.
Recently there’s been a growing sense of dissatisfaction, and managers seem no longer reticent to speak their mind on officials’ performances during post-match interviews; the most emotive time for a manager or coach, particularly a losing one.
Perhaps a meeting of minds needs to take place between referees and managers. There appears to be widening gulf between the two. Could things improve if they understood each other better?
Comments such as those we’ve heard recently are rarely helpful in public and must play on the minds of referees.
At the end of the day those in the middle must remain confident, uninfluenced and prepared, to referee each match without feeling the need to appease one club or another, perhaps after getting wind of a coach’s emotive comments from a previous match.
No referee goes out to have a bad game or be anything other than impartial.
A specifically-designed training programme to improve refereeing standards, behaviours and psychology may help encourage more understanding by clubs and managers. Perhaps something is already in place, I don’t know, but let’s get it out there so everyone does.
Of course, more often than not the officials do get the big decisions right. Let's not forget that managers and coaches given their own specific motives, make hopeless referees. And they complain only when a poor decision goes against them, yet accept with blind eye, sometimes gleefully, a dubious one that benefits.
Refereeing is difficult, coaching/managing too, especially with all the passion and emotion involved.
There is absolutely room for improvement all round, and until that happens governing bodies must surely find a way to prevent coaches from publicly targeting referees... for the good and integrity of our game.
Where do you sit on our poll - are refereeing standards in decline, are managers too outspoken in targeting the performances of officials, or is it a bit of both?
Regards refereeing standards in the Irish Premiership, which statement do you most identify with?
This poll is closed
Refereeing standards have improved and are acceptable.
Refereeing standards are declining but also managers are too outspoken in regard to officials
Refereeing standards are declining, and managers are not too outspoken.
Refereeing standards are as they always have been, and managers have become too outspoken in regard to officials.
Refereeing standards are as they always have been, and managers are not too outspoken.