Should referees give post-match interviews?

One of the questions often asked about top referees is why they don’t come on television after a game, like the players and managers do, and explain why they made certain decisions. It’s a question that I put to Stewart Attwell, when he came to talk to referees in Berks and Bucks earlier in the season. He gave what I suppose could be described as a diplomatic answer, quoting what was obviously a pre-arranged statement. He said it was felt that it was better not to speak when emotions were running high and someone from the press department could answer in due course if necessary. It seems however that the Premier League referees might not be happy with this blanket ban on them having a say. Recently they produced a list of things they would like to happen, which incidentally included goal-line technology, along with the freedom to speak about incidents. Of course it’s not only in this country that there are arguments and misunderstandings between referees and managers at the top level. It also happens on the French League and Marc Batta, former FIFA referee and now national refereeing director has put forward some proposals. These include a post-match meeting with referees and managers before attending any television or print media interviews. Whether it is suggested that referees and manager attend the interviews together is not clear and the last thing any referee would want is to get in an argument on television. There is some merit however, in the manager listening to the referee before making his feelings publically known. This actually happened recently when Blackpool played Arsenal and Blackpool’s manager, Ian Holloway, felt that one of the Arsenal goals was offside. He admitted, however, that after talking to the referee he understood that, because the player who scored had not touched the ball from the original pass, the goal was perfectly correct in the eyes of the Law. Holloway said that he still didn’t agree with the law but at least he didn’t blame the referee. One of the other problems that I see from referees giving their reasons for decisions is that when they are shown as part of programmes such as Match of the Day, they are then open to comment from the ill informed pundits. I remember some years ago when Wycombe Wanderers had a good cup run, they scored a goal that many thought offside. The referee explained that the player had received the ball from a second phase of play. Alan Hanson, however, ridiculed the referee’s comments saying he had never heard of a second phase of play. It was a term that referees were well aware of and all Hanson did was show his own ignorance but, of course, the watching fans believed he knew what he was taking about and it was the referee who was made to look the mug. When I refereed in senior football, players would sometimes ask in the bar afterwards about certain decisions I had made. I happily agreed to explain providing it didn’t lead to an argument. It always ended amicably but of course this is a million miles from today’s top level when every decision is minutely scrutinised by television. However, some while ago Howard Webb took it on himself to explain why he had disallowed a goal, a decision that not everyone understood. It was because, although an offside player didn’t touch the ball, he blocked the view of the goalkeeper. This was received very well so who knows we may see more interviews in the future. In the meantime, as this is my last column for the season, my thanks to the Reading Post for allowing me to give readers of getreading the view from the middle and also to those readers who tell me they enjoy it, even if they don’t always agree.

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