I normally stop short of criticizing referees. Having refereed myself at a modest level, I appreciate how difficult the job is. For one thing, angles are all important. The ref cannot possibly have the same view as someone observing from an opposite terrace or grandstand. He can’t see everything.
It’s different now with VAR of course, but then such technology remains a thing of the future over in these parts.
I missed a lot of Irish League when in exile over the years and certainly scoffed at suggestions upon my return last summer that the standard of refereeing in the Danske Bank Premiership was at it’s worst-ever.
Sure that’s the nonsense subjective fans always espouse I thought, especially after their team suffered a reverse or failed to win. “The ref this, the ref that...”
But more often than not back then the ref was right, and in fact it’s still the case.
Back in the day I always liked to see Alan Snoddy in the middle during a Big Two game for instance. He was the best, the sharpest, took no nonsense, always decisive and in control. He knew how to run a game and enjoyed the respect of players.
Fans always criticize, certainly they did even back then and always will. That’s a given. It’s hard to be objective when it’s your team.
But I’ve had a chance to see for myself. I’ve taken in over fifty Premiership and Championship matches so far this season and sadly have to side with the critics. In fact it’s gone to a level now where so many high-profile errors have occurred you wonder what’s going on.
The refs still get most calls right, but there’s far too many glaring howlers. Usually I’d pay lip-service to a manager or coach’s heat-of-the-moment, post-match comments, but it’s been too easy to sympathize with some, after poor refereeing calls in 2021/22.
The other side of that coin is that managers seem not to be reeled in or disciplined for launching into post-match criticisms of officials. That cannot be right either. As recently as post-match, Friday night, Glentoran manager Mick McDermott claimed some Irish League referees needed a personality transplant and mentioned how the referee had lost control of his side’s game at Crusaders.
Such comments certainly do need airing, but surely after a highly-charged, passionate Premiership game it’s not the time. Why can coaches players and referees not get together away from the tensions and pressures of a match-day?
Constructive discussion in a calmer, neutral environment would be a good start. There certainly is a problem and the longer the parties go without meeting minds, the greater the chasm becomes.
Those who run refereeing locally are deafening through their silence, not to mention lack of punitive action against outspoken managers or coaches. Maybe they agree with the condemnations?
And if they do, the question needs answering... what are they doing about it?
This column recently issued a survey on Danske Bank Premiership refereeing.
No respondents feel refereeing standards have improved in 2021/22 and are acceptable.
Only 42% feel that managers and coaches are too outspoken in their comments, including criticisms of refereeing officials, and 2⁄3 of all respondents feel that refereeing standards have deteriorated this season.
33% said refereeing standards in 2021/22 are the same as always in Irish League football.