Last week the sports pages of the national newspapers were again full of comments about a couple of a referee’s decisions. And I do mean full. I received a copy of the Sun which devoted two whole pages to the sending off of Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic. Under the heading ‘’Is it any wonder that Jose feels picked on’, they published a copy of what they claimed was the assessor’s report on the performance of the referee, Martin Atkinson. The problem is that they got their facts wrong. It was not the assessor’s report. The heading of the form gives it away, ‘PREMIER LEAGUE MATCH DELEGATES INTERIM REPORT’. The Match Delegate is not the assessor. The other clue if they had cared to investigate is that the person who is alleged to have completed the report was Steve Greaves, a former player and coach, who had spells with Fulham, Preston, Ipswich and Scunthorpe as a player before taking his coaching badges and his last coaching position was with Southampton Academy. Why is that a clue? It’s simply that assessors have to be a referee or more normally, an ex-referee, and incidentally they can only assess up to the level at which they officiated.
Steve Greaves, as the form states, is a Match Delegate who are either former players, coaches or managers. It is worth acknowledging that Premier League referees have no fewer than four people making reports on their performance after every match. As well as the assessor and the Match Delegate, both clubs will have to submit reports with markings. These markings, along with fitness tests, are on what a referee’s future depends. I wonder how many of us would put up with four separate people critiquing our every performance at work.
By the time they reach the Premier League referees will be no strangers to assessors or more particularly club markings. At the bottom levels of refereeing they will only encounter assessors when applying for promotion but club markings start from day one. If you should begin refereeing in say, the South Chiltern Minor League, the clubs will submit marks and this will continue throughout your refereeing life.
To be fair, the Sun gave a column to the views of Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager. Having watched the incident that created the hiatus on television, I have to agree with Dyche, when he said that at the time of the tackle, no Chelsea players (or staff) reacted except Matic. On the Burnley website, Dyche said that Ashley Barnes had played the ball towards his team mate but then the motion of his foot carried it upwards into Matic’s shin. But he said there was no malice and no intent. Intent is not something referees take intent into consideration but although it was not a rash tackle from a great distance, it was a foul, which is what Martin Atkinson gave. It was only afterwards that we got the allegations of a ‘criminal’ tackle. Steve Greaves in his report incidentally, echoed Dyche’s comment that it looked worse in slow motion and supported the referee’s decision.
To round off the Sun’s two pages of ‘Storm at the Bridge’, there was a column from former England player, Ian Wright. He said he could understand Matic and Mourinho being upset at this ‘horrendous’ tackle. Ian Wright talking about horrendous tackles is the pot calling the kettle black. Remember his attack on Manchester United goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel, which was with malice and intent. A footballer’s career, Wright said, is short at the best of times but a whole career can be shortened with one mistimed tackle. That’s why he is infuriated when seeing these referees’ mistakes. Did I miss something? When did referees start making tackles on the players?