David Bernstein, the former Chairman of the Football Association has always been a good friend of referees, addressing the annual Referees Conference with kind words. At the beginning of this season he berated Premier League managers for setting what he called terrible examples by their behaviour. I doubt however if he could have foreseen some of the incidents that have happened this year, particularly of course the antics of former Reading manager Alan Pardew. There is no doubt that Pardew by head butting an opposing player falls right into the category of a bad example.
What Mr Bernstein was really talking about however was managers’ conduct on the touch line towards officials. Perhaps a classic example was not in the Premier League but the Championship where Paul Ince, when still manager of Blackpool, admitted using threatening behaviour and abusive language towards a match official while pushing the fourth official in the chest. What always slightly amazes me is the haranguing of the fourth official by nearly every manager when a decision doesn’t go their way. What are they expecting to happen? Do they think that he will somehow get the referee to change his mind? And of course it’s not only the manager, often other members of his assorted staff in the dug out will join in.
Perhaps Mr Bernstein should have done more when he was still FA Chairman. After all, the rules in the Laws of the Game are quite clear. The occupants of the technical area are identified before the match in accordance with the competition rules which specify the number of people allowed. Only one person at a time is allowed to convey tactical instructions from the technical area. The coach and other officials must remain within the confines of the technical area and must behave in a responsible manner. So I think this excludes hurling abuse at the referee or his assistant which you sometimes see when a decision is not liked. How they can dispute an offside decision from their position in the dugout is beyond me. However, any fourth official whose tries to keep the technical area occupants in order is reviled by them and managers will applaud those who just sit back and let them get on with it. In my opinion we should either have rules that are enforced or we shouldn’t have them.
Paul Ince received not just a touch line ban which is usually the case but a stadium ban. Part of Alan Pardew’s punishment also includes a stadium ban. This means that during the requisite number of games he is not allowed to be in the stadium. This is something that is used widely in other countries and which I would like to see regularly here. The touchline ban is a farce; the manager/coach sits in the stand, probably in a better position to watch the match anyway and gives his instructions by telephone. Alan Pardew says he will be watching the game on television in his hotel room but in some countries they go a little further. The manager is forced to referee a junior game whilst the club’s match is on. Nigel Adkins told us recently that he gets players to referee training games so that they get an idea of how difficult refereeing can be. Perhaps it would impress the same message on managers.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that managers who rant and rave on the touchline usually have players who are argumentative on the field of play. Not only do they think it is acceptable and permissible but part of the game. We know a manger’s job is stressful but they must consider the influence they have on others, not only players but also spectators.