Referees and The Top Four
In the wake of Jose Mourinho's mistaken comments about a new rule favouring yooonited and penalties (it's not a new rule Jose, it's been going on since at least 1993) I was doing a little pre derby research when I came across these words penned by ex ref Jeff Winter in the Eveining Gazette (Middlesborough).
They present an interesting view from someone who has experienced the joys of refereeing in the Premiership.
How much is true read for yourself.
However it is interesting that someone who has reffed at the top level believes that the top clubs are favoured even more so these days.
Jeff Winter in the EVENING GAZETTE
For years, and throughout my career, I defended referees vigorously, basing my argument on my own attitude and that of my colleagues at the time.
I pointed to the fact that smaller sides had few penalties awarded at the grounds of the big boys because they were usually defending and that lessened the attacking opportunities.
In my day David Elleray sent off Roy Keane four times, Alan Wilkie gave two penalties against Liverpool at Anfield in one game and I believe that my track record suggested that I was not scared, influenced or intimidated by anyone.
Now, by making that statement I am not being clever or arrogant, just confirming that I did my job honestly, fairly and to the best of my ability.
I sometimes made mistakes, I was only human. However, even though the game has got more difficult since I retired, due to player behaviour, I believe there is now a real problem with referees and their treatment of the big sides.
When Philip Don was in charge of the referees, he was as straight as a die, so much so that the number of yellow and reds was so high that he was upsetting the clubs and he got the sack.
Now the present management structure tries to keep everybody happy. There are fewer referees getting the big games and the power of the major clubs is so great that a referee who upsets the big four is often blocked from refereeing the big games for a while.
So I wonder at times if referees are being subconsciously influenced by the big boys. If this is the case then we face frightening times because the whole moral framework of an independent referee is being threatened.
Referees are now professional, their livelihoods are at risk, and the power of a Chelsea or a Man United is so great that a referee can be dispensed with and lose his livelihood.
Like with a football club when things are going wrong it is often the manager that gets the sack.
I still speak to many of my former colleagues. There is favouritism and cliques within refereeing circles. It appears that the Polls and Styles of this world can do no wrong, while referees like Mark Halsey who is constantly one of the highest marked refs, never gets a look in when cup finals come along.
There needs to be strong independent management of the referees to give them back their confidence.
The 'Yes' men who currently run the system need replacing, but then again if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. I watch referees breaking into the Football League at Darlington and Pools and you see ambitious young men refereeing with fear because of the assessor in the stand.
A referee is never going to be popular, people will always have their own biased view of any incident, but they have to be strong and in turn get strong support from their masters. It is a bit like the school bully situation. If you don't stand up to them, they will walk all over you.
The clubs have too much say and too much influence over the appointment and management of referees and until someone has got the bottle to stand up to them things will not change. Don't hold your breath.
Who says the Premiership doesn't favour the big four?