Alan Shearer bemoans poor refereeing standards in the English game


Alan Shearer blog: “Refereeing standard is not at the level it should be”

Coral football ambassador Alan Shearer spoke exclusively to us about referee standards, following a number of poor decisions in the Premier League recently.

The standard of refereeing in this country is not at the level it should be. Yes, I respect that being a referee is a difficult job but too many refs have been getting too many big decisions wrong.

Michael Oliver, Martin Atkinson and Mark Clattenburg are the best referees in the country but apart from them I think the standard is average at best. Everyone makes mistakes but there are too many big decisions being called incorrectly every single week.

The standard of referring at the last Euros in France showed that this doesn’t have to be the case. For the vast majority of games the standard was excellent. We saw the best referees in Europe, refereeing the best players in Europe.

There might have been the odd mistake but for the amount of games that were played, the majority of big calls were called correctly. We also saw less diving and cheating, less dissent and aggression towards the men in the middle and and that’s because the players responded to the standard of officiating.

Why can’t the same standard apply to the Premier League? Why can’t we get foreign referees in our country? The vast majority of good players in our league are foreign, the managers are foreign, so why not have the best referees, wherever they are from? The Premier League has plenty of money, so why not go and sign the best we can get.

“Ex-players should become referees”

We should also incentivise ex-players to train as match officials for when their playing days are over and by that I mean former players who have played at Football League and Premier League level, players who may have finished in their early thirties who have had a good career but who are looking to stay in football. Many players are lost to the game and all they know is football, why lose that experience?

We would have to increase the salary to incentivise these guys, as at the moment it is not a career path that would appeal to many but there is no reason why we can’t, as I’ve said, the league is flush with money.

The money in the Premier League is bigger and better than anywhere, other than China now! Former players have an instinctive understanding of the game, the challenges and tackles and dynamic on the pitch and would know how to communicate in a way teams respect and understand.

If we could change the current attitude to refs and make it an appealing option post career, with a top salary that gives guys a future beyond their playing career, I believe former players would go into refereeing.

The NBA in the US are trying to encourage more former players to become match officials, recognising that you need to be physically fit and have an understanding of the game.

But If you’ve spent years of your life playing a game, you know the game. Yes you still have to learn the intricacies of refereeing but you must start with an advantage if you’re a former professional player.

I think if we did the same for former players here and they changed the system which requires officials to start at non-league level and work your way up, then it would start to be considered a viable career option once your playing days are over.

“Players do not make it easy for a referee”

Having said all of that, I do also understand that players are also responsible for making things more difficult for the officials, with over reactions, diving and the way they roll around and pretend to be in agony. Phil Jones the other week is a perfect example. Mike Dean made the wrong decision, there is no doubt about it, but Phil Jones’ feigned reaction didn’t help him.

The call for more technology to help referees is a difficult one. I was all for bringing in goal-line technology and it has been a huge success, but where and when you can use video replay without altering the flow and dynamic of a game is a big debate.

There has been talk of having one appeal per half i.e. to review a decision, but I’m still to be 100% convinced that could work. Where do you have a restart from? How do you re-start? At what point do you stop the play?

“Referees could communicate with us more”

There are a lot questions that need answering and I’m not convinced we need to take that step yet. The Euros showed that with a high standard of officiating, the game still work pretty well as it is.

It would also help if the referees could communicate with us more. We see a number of former referees in the media now and they do help to educate the fans on the mindset and thinking of the officials. I think the vast majority of people understand that everyone makes mistakes during a game, players and officials alike.

The players and managers have to come out and front up – why can’t we see the referees come out and explain their decisions? This would lead to greater sympathy and understanding and break down the them and us barrier. Referee’s boss Mike Riley should come out and speak, as ultimately the buck stops with him.

“In my playing days, you could speak to the referee more”

We will always have moans and groans because decisions haven’t gone our way. That’s part and parcel of the game. However in my playing days, you could speak to the referee more, you could be more involved with him. Nowadays it’s more like, “get away from me”, “I’m not speaking to you”, “my decision’s made”.

That’s another reason why I believe getting ex-players into these positions would help, they understand a players mentality and their reactions and emotions. The scrutiny placed now on refs is far more intense and it is probably too easy for us to sit and criticise but ultimately it seems more and more of the game changing decisions are being called wrongly.

All anyone wants is for matches to be decided by the players and not the officials. We have the best managers, we have some of the best players, why can’t we have the best referees too?


Read more from Alan in the Shearer says archive.

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