Blowing the Whistle on Premier League Referees

Blowing the Whistle on Premier League Referees

EPL Referees


Referees have borne the brunt of many a loss, whether fairly or not. Their decisions will always have an impact on the outcome of a game. The problem is that often time there seems to be no accountability, no recourse for bad or missed decisions. This only adds to the frustration of fans, players and managers as well as the widening the divide between these sides.

In the Premier League referees are chosen from a select group of top officials in England. These referees hold the highest certification which includes ongoing training throughout the season including fitness testing and monitoring. These are typically men that are in excellent physical condition, despite the views of some managers. The actual body that oversees the match officials is the Professional Games Match Officials Board which is led by former referee Mike Riley.

I would say that this is all well and good, but it also seems to be yet another group of insiders. Where is the accountability to the public, to the fans? Why can’t they allow referees to be interviewed and give their reasoning for calls during a match?

I find myself going back and forth when it comes to controversial calls in matches. Referees certainly do have it difficult out there. They get a split second to make a decision compared to many fans who are able to watch replays and see exactly what happened from several angles and often in slow motion.

On the other hand, these are highly trained match officials that have spent countless hours doing this job and I don’t think it’s completely unfair to judge them when they mess up a call. Fans have a certain expectation that referees will do their job in a match and when things go wrong, I think they are justified to get upset.

Over the past weekend (Week 30 in the EPL) there were several controversial calls. There is always a certain amount of interpretation of the games laws that referees use when making these judgment calls. Looking at the Norwich v Sunderland match, there were three separate incidents. In my opinion the referee got 1/3 correct. The hand ball by goal keeper Mark Bunn outside the box was a well spotted call as the ball did go off his arm. As the last man back he did prevent a clear goal scoring chance.

The penalty give for Sunderland on a handball by Sebastien Bassong was not a good call, in my opinion. I will admit that I have had countless replays to watch and time to think on it. The linesman had one look and several seconds (though those seconds could have been influenced by the crowd and Sunderland players). In the play Bassong doesn’t gain any advantage in the ball grazing his arm after chesting the ball down.

The last play is one that the referee and linesman completely botched. There is absolutely no reason for them to get it wrong. They were both positioned perfectly to get the call right and still failed epicly. Danny Rose’s handball was clearly a yard or more inside the box and yet they somehow gave it as a free kick. I’m still baffled by that one.

Another incident on Sunday of Match Day 30 involved Callum McManaman’s horrible tackle on Massaido Haidara. The referee didn’t see it due to his positioning, however the linesman has since come out to say that he did see it. What I cannot understand is why he didn’t flag for it. It is his job to let the referee know about incidents such as this. Since he did see it the FA can’t give out any retrospective punishment to McManaman and Newcastle United, as well as many fans, are feeling aggrieved by this this.

So the question from me is: What will the FA and PGMOB do about this? I’m sure the answer will be nothing, absolutely nothing. What they should do is apologize and show that they are working on changing these situations. They need to show that they are willing to come out to the public and admit they are wrong, and I would include referees in this. We all know that they are human, but the FA, Premier League and PGMOB seem intent on keeping them secreted away from scrutiny by anyone or being able to admit to any semblance of humanity.

Moving forward these groups need to start working more together to promote sportsmanship and respect coming from their side and not only expecting the players, managers and fans to show them respect. Respect needs to be a two way street and as long as they continue to hide their referees and protect them with seeming immunity, it is going to be extremely difficult for others to show them the respect they deserve.

I know referees have a very difficult job, I understand that part. What I cannot understand is why they are given such authority and power without any true accountability. The governing bodies are quick to stamp on anyone threatening them, but seem every so slow to admit to any wrongdoing on their own part. I am ready for there to be a change. That change needs to start with reviewing the tools that referees have available to them. Every fan has technology at their fingertips, so why can’t the referees?


Let me know what you think about referees in today’s EPL. Should Premier League referees be allowed to speak to the press?

Be sure to stay tuned for the next article in my refereeing series. Coming up next: How Video Technology Will Help the Premier League


Photo courtesy of: Davide Guglielmo @



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