Referees have the hardest job going – but the daft nonsense must stop after Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County silliness

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Help us to help you, referees of League One. Deep down, we’re all on your side. Truly.

Nobody wants the post-match conversation around football matches to be about dumb stuff that makes the job of referees even harder than it is. And it is truly the hardest job.

At League One level, officials are often part-time. The fact is that they’re either coming through the ranks or frankly situated on the edges of being good enough for selection higher up.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With every respect to those mentioned, it’s an unusual division in that you can go from the relative spotlight-free gentility of Forest Green Rovers on a Saturday to a packed-out Hillsborough or Pride Park on a Tuesday night under the lights. The pressures are different and at times that’s told.

Sheffield Wednesday have been on the end of some bizarre refereeing controversies this season. Pic: Steve Ellis.Sheffield Wednesday have been on the end of some bizarre refereeing controversies this season. Pic: Steve Ellis.
Sheffield Wednesday have been on the end of some bizarre refereeing controversies this season. Pic: Steve Ellis.

If this reads to be patronising or glib it doesn’t mean to – referees in particular have the most thankless task going; have a shocker and you’re roundly booed with all manner of angry language in accompaniment, perform well and you fade into the background.

There are no headlines or phone-ins praising referees for doing their job well – less so on the parks, five-a-side cages and recreation grounds across the country that depend on referees to manage the grassroots of the national obsession. Referees deserve more respect for the job they do – good or bad.

You can sense a ‘but’ coming, can’t you?

Last night Derby County manager Paul Warne relayed to media that his player Korey Smith had been told by a referee that “He was sorry if I’ve got that wrong”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

A few weeks back the discourse around Sheffield Wednesday’s season-defining win over Plymouth Argyle was muddied by claims a fourth official appearing to utilise the big screen to perform his very own VAR (the PGMOL deny this).

Barnsley scored at Portsmouth in February before realising the referee had inexplicably delayed the blow of his whistle in failing to spot a crystal clear advantage opportunity.

Refereeing is hard and human error is as much a part of the running of the game as it is the playing of it – heaven knows the majority of EFL supporters would rather put up with the occasional poor decision than put up with the current VAR set-up in the Premier League.

But it is these stand-out incidents of silliness that throw scorn on an honourable profession, the headline-grabbing bits of nonsense that make life harder for the officials themselves and the colleagues that have to set up their Saturdays to bleating notions of agenda and conspiracy on social media.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Was the referee wrong to say what he is alleged to have said to Korey Smith? It shows humility, perhaps, but it also shows a degree of doubt that has rightly and understandably rubbed Rams figures up the wrong way.

With Howard Webb at the wheel, the PGMOL are launching into a period of transparency for which they should be commended hugely.

But it’s the moments of daft absent-minded silliness that leave a bullet hole in their boots all too often. Sort your ‘stuff’ out. Because nobody wants officials to have a good game more than football supporters.