The Premier League and the Men in Black
It seems that referees are back in the firing line after the World Cup final in which Rotherham-born Howard Webb issued 14 yellow cards during the battle between Spain and the Netherlands. Many watching the dirty tactics of the Dutch must have been amazed that no players were sent off in the first half of a final that will go down as one of the most ugly and brutal ever.
Probably the most outrageous example of an assault that should have merited a sending off was the horrific kung-fu style assault on Xabi Alonso by Nigel de Jong, but there were other shameful examples of savage challenges perpetrated by the likes of Mark Van Bommel and Wesley Sneijder that deserved red cards too. Yet all the Yorkshire ex-cop did was show yellow card after yellow card.
The Premier League’s top whistleblower has been criticised for not taking tougher action against the Netherland players and he is on record as after the game as saying he found the game “an extremely challenging match”.
Even former German player and manager Franz Beckenbauer has joined the fray. These days he is an influential member of FIFA’s executive committee and he has said that he thought the standard of refereeing at the World Cup was poor.
The standard of referees that players and fans alike have to put up with in England has of course been a sore point in recent years. Howard Webb’s faltering attempts to control the game on the world’s biggest stage will have done nothing to improve the image of the English ref.
To be fair, the job of a referee is not an easy one – that has to be acknowledged. Players dive, bad behaviour is rife and some managers are quick to criticise any decision that goes against their players.
With the new Premier League season in the offing and football betting sites offering odds of 13/8 on Chelsea winning the title again, all eyes will once more be on the performance of the men in black. Let’s just hope that the FA’s Respect programme has some positive influence and that the result will be a more enjoyable football experience for all involved.