Monday, February 2, 2009
Where are the good refs?
Watching a somewhat nervy but ultimately satisfying Liverpool win over Chelsea on Sunday, I, like most other rational humans, was struck by the fact that Mike Riley apparently had no idea what he was doing. This, of course, was not entirely surprising, as Mike Riley is renowned from Albania to England as a bit of an idiot. Come to think of it, the only referees I can name have that distinction because of being either blind or careless with the cards. Mike Riley, Graham Poll, Rob Styles; none of these men are remembered for clean calls or smart eyes, and yet they are the representatives of the craft of officiating.
When was the last time you've checked the officials list before a game and heaved a sigh of relief? Been to or watched a match where the announcement of the head referee's name was anything but booed? Why is it that the FA hasn't managed to figure out that there is a reason refs are almost universally hated?
Everyone knows that refs are graded on their performance after matches. Why isn't it that these numbers are published in a public manner? While it might sound a bit silly, a league table format, whereby refs are ranked on their accuracy and fairness, could restore a bit of faith in the system. Important matches, local derbys and late-season clashes when points are tight could be assigned to those with high scores, lower-table matches (and a lower payout) could be left those loose with the bookings and fouls. This is far from any fully elaborated plan, but this is a sport, where we're perfectly comfortable with a competition format to decide our league champion on the pitch. Why not set one up to choose the man who could potentially decide the fate of that same title?
It's time we start celebrating the commitment to upholding the rules that referees ostensibly represent, and making what is the most hated job in sports into something it's practitioners are proud of.