Refs, make your decisions and to hell with the consequences.

The recent apology by Mike Riley, the head of the Professional Games Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) in England on behalf of referee Andre Mariner, leaves a sour taste in the mouth as far as I’m concerned.

It came in the wake of a penalty awarded by Mariner to Chelsea in their recent home game against West Brom. Riley admitted that he phoned the West Brom coach Steve Clark to apologize on behalf of his organisation, of which Mariner is a member.

The PGMOL are the body who control and organize professional refereeing in the Premier League similar to the PRO in the North American MLS, which is headed by Mr. Peter Walton (who I discussed in one of my earlier blogs).

If you didn’t see or hear about the incident, West Brom were winning 2 – 1 at Chelsea and the penalty kick in “injury” time denied them a would-be famous victory at the Stamford Bridge ground.

The debate about this decision still rages on, but… let me put the issue in perspective by quoting you what the Law says

Law 5 of the FIFA Laws of the Game states:

Each match is controlled by a referee who has full authority to enforce the Laws of the Game in connection with the match to which he has been appointed.”

“The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play, including whether or not a goal is scored and the result of the match, are final.”

“The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.”

The perception of a “mistake” by the referee does not come into it.  Nowhere in the FIFA Laws of the Game does it say that a referee has to apologize for his/her decision that is perceived as a “mistake.”

Referees make decisions and according to the Laws of the Game their decisions are final whether they are seen to be a “mistake” or not.

Before issuing his “apology,” Mr. Riley should have considered potential problems, complications and consequences of his actions, including:

  • Is this apology going to set a precedent?
  • Where does this leave referee Andre Mariner and other referees in the Premier League?
  • Where does it leave referees in general?
  • Will Mike Riley now be constantly on television and radio, apologizing for all and every “mistake” made by the match officials under his control?

My personal opinion is that the biggest “mistake” made here is the fact that the head of the PGMOL found it necessary to take the step he did.

His actions, in my opinion, are the actions of a man in a very weak position and unable to cope with the pressure of the job.

Following on the heels of the apology to West Brom, Sunderland manager Gus Poyet is now demanding an apology from the PGMOL chief following the red card issued to Wes Brown (since rescinded), and even the erstwhile manager of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, found it strange adding “nobody called me to apologize about the fact it was not a free-kick against West Brom for their second goal.”

When times are tough people look for leadership, they look for guidance, and they look for direction.

In my opinion neither Mike Riley nor Peter Walton are suited for their respective positions. During their active careers as Premier League referees they showed themselves to be lacking the courage to stand up to the big clubs and their players.

In this world we have leaders and followers and in my opinion as a referee, coach, mentor and administrator of referees up to and including World Cup level, Mike Riley is definitely not a leader.

My advice to referees and assistant referees is do your job without fear or favour.

React when you see an incident and dish out the appropriate punishment regardless of the teams involved and to hell with the consequences. It’s not your problem. Be happy in the knowledge that you did your job as best you could with honesty, integrity and fairness.

Happy Whistling!

Categories: General

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