In the days when my refereeing journeys meant getting home a little later on Saturday evenings, my sons were strictly forbidden to even hint of the results of any games played that day, in case it might spoil my enjoyment of watching Match of the Day. In many ways the programme was the highlight of the weekend viewing, for me at least. How things have changed, The BBC these days have lost the right to televise most sporting events from test cricket to horseracing and very little football is shown on its screens. You would think therefore that they would pay a little more attention to one of the few programmes that remains. They may have clever holograms from their new Manchester media centre, but we are faced with some of the most self satisfied pundits such as Alan Shearer, with his smug grin and the bombastic Alan Hanson, who do absolutely nothing to benefit the game.
Take a recent situation in the Arsenal v Norwich game when Kei Kamara held on to Oliver Giroud’s shirt pulling him to the ground in his own penalty area. If we look at the Laws of the Game, the ten offences for which the referee will award a direct free kick or penalty in the penalty area includes holding. Holding can be done in many ways but certainly pulling an opponent’s shirt is one of them. Although the replays clearly showed Kamara’s shirt pull the pundits in the Match of the Day studio were adamant and unanimous, no penalty. What part of the Law do they not understand? To make matter worse they even cajoled their studio guest, David Moyes of Everton into agreeing with them. I wonder what would have been his answer had it had been an Everton player hauled to the ground in his opponent’s penalty area. They also denigrated the referee’s decision because he had acted on the advice of what they insisted on calling his linesman. The term linesman was discontinued in 1996, they are now called assistant referees to reflect the fact that their job is to assist the referee and that’s what he did, assist the referee to make the right decision.
On an earlier programme, Pat Nevin, who was the other pundit, suggested when discussing a contentious decision that they looked at it from the referee’s viewpoint, only to be shouted down by Hanson. This perhaps shows the necessity for Match of the Day to reassess itself. After all, the BBC’s remit is to educate as well as to entertain. Look at their glee when they tell you, ‘we’ve got some contentious decisions to show you tonight’ but never have anyone in the studio who can discuss them with any authority. We can’t expect the BBC to follow Yahoo’s Whistleblower, where ex-Premier League referees give their views on contested decisions of the weekend but they do need to benefit the game by having the view of someone who understands the laws or at least have a presenter who makes the pundits explain themselves. But of course, Lineker, Hanson and Shearer are old buddies so this is not likely to happen. Come on Match of the Day, make a fresh start next season. Get rid of the old brigade and let’s have a new standard in football programmes, even if it’s all you’ve got left.
As this is my last column for the season can I say thanks for all the phone calls, e-mails and to those who stop me to ask questions on the laws and to the Reading Post who ensure that it’s readers at least, get a view From the Middle.