I hadn’t fully realised until Gareth Ainsworth, Wycombe Wanderers’ manager, brought the subject up this week that referees in all four divisions of the football league were not professional. It appears that only the Premier League has access to full-time professional referees and that the other three divisions are provided with officials who during the week are employed in other jobs.
It certainly would be entirely logical when the players and clubs are professional and football is their living, that those who can have such a profound influence on their career and living should be similarly able to concentrate on what they are doing rather than turn up after a hard week selling insurance or servicing cars.
Being professional is no guarantee of getting it right and it is quite surprising, given the sums of money generated by our national sport, that the advantages that technology can offer have been so slowly deployed.
It might be costly, but after that initial hit providing the equipment and the necessary training, the potential for those relegation/promotion injustices could be removed forever, and players crowding round a referee to influence him to send someone off would be forever pointless.
I do wish there could be some way of stopping forever the aggressive barracking of referees. I have always been an advocate of the sin bin as a means of benefitting the aggrieved team at the time rather than who ever plays the offending team the following week. If a player crowds a referee and says the things we can all lip read so clearly to them - send them to the bench for 15 minutes. Managers will soon give them the hairdryer treatment if that happens on a regular basis.
The quality of football and behaviour on the pitch could be greatly improved if the referees were brave enough for one season to consistently deal firmly with behaviour that diminishes the great game.
And if the fans are not seeing that behaviour regularly on the pitch, then maybe the undesirable elements of fan language and behaviour might be lessened, enabling parents to bring their young children to matches, confident that what they will see is a game being played fairly with respect for the officials.
In turn those young people will not be emulating their ‘heroes’ behaviour when they play football themselves nor will they have to deal with out of control parents on the touchline.