Mike Riley was one of the highest profile referees of his generation. He was also one of the worst.
As the boss of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) Riley has shown himself to be an even bigger pillock & failure off the field...no mean feat.
He and his colleagues continue to plunge new depths of incompetence on a breathtaking scale week in and week out.
Yes, being a referee is a difficult job and mistakes can and do happen. They're only human, but the abysmal standards of officiating went well beyond a joke ages ago.
Supporters at most, if not all, Premier League clubs, will readily testify that some officials are inept or, far worse, appear biased against their team.
Yes, of course it reeks of paranoia and tribalism, but that doesn’t mean referees and their assistants aren’t out to do certain clubs a disservice.
The football establishment – the FA mandarins, Premier League powerbrokers, broadcasters, commentators, pundits – are all too quick to dismiss the possibility of any impropriety, cheating or corruption when it comes to referees and ‘linesmen’.
We’re told it couldn’t happen here – after all – this is England, the very origins of the beautiful game, the home of football.
No, our referees are above that sort of thing. Any of that unsavoury bribery nonsense only goes on in places like Italy and Juventus – to suggest otherwise would be outrageous! Really?
Even if it didn’t involve financial favours, you’d never get referees allowing their own football proclivities to influence their handling of games – absolutely not. Why not?
Such an assertion is either naïve or disingenuous.
There’s always some rationale to explain away the dodgy penalty award, the stonewall penalty not given, the flurry of yellow cards for one team and not the other, the dubious offside calls and the blatant time-wasting going unpenalised.
We’re constantly told to give the ref the benefit of the doubt. Football at the top level is so fast nowadays, officials cannot be expected to keep up or always get the big decisions right.
The blundering inconsistencies are light years away from the times of truly impeccable ‘men in black’ such as England’s finest Jack Taylor and, ironically and more recently, Italy’s Pierluigi Collina.
Of course ‘Gentleman Jack’ was never subjected to his every decision being captured under the merciless microscopic analysis of today’s wall-to-wall television coverage.
The all-seeing intrusive camera angles makes scrutinising the minutiae of every Premier League controversy so easy for muppets like Niall Quinn, Michael Owen, Thierry Henry, David James, Robbie Savage, Paul Scholes – the list is extensive – so any refereeing mistakes are polarized.
On that score, there has to be some sympathy for referees and linesmen who only get one chance to get it right, but it needn’t be that way if instant replays were available.
It's said football is all about opinions. Some pundits such as Manchester City’s woeful ex-manager Stuart Pearce, claim it’d detract from the game if wrong decisions were effectively nullified by technology. Psycho claims it would stifle debate.
Surely most fans would rather see their teams win or lose on merit - NOT on the dubious decisions of amateur officials masquerading as professional referees.
If getting it right means more video technology, with teams given a limited number of challenges during a match, then bring it on.
Not only would it be equitable, it would eradicate suspicions of bias. Transparency would bring greater levels of integrity to football and expose those who were either crooked or just not up to it.
It works in other sports like rugby union, tennis and cricket, so why not football?
Rarely do you see dissent directed towards rugby union referees by players or fans alike. They're held in high regard, unlike their football counterparts.
Premier League referees are now full time and very well paid - something in the region of £90,000 per annum, plus expenses.
They're also more arrogant and self important than they've ever been. Some such as Mark Clattenburg positively seek to cultivate a celebrity status. Ever controversial, Clattenburg is once again in the limelight – just how he likes it – with news he has joined an agency that also represents Premier League players, including City’s own Willy Caballero.
And yet, Clattenburg, along with all his refereeing colleagues, remains unaccountable in the public arena, never required to justify their decision making.
That has to stop.
Long gone are the days when it was meritorious for the referee to be 'invisible' and letting the players take centre stage.
The modern day referee revels in the public spotlight, making crucial decisions in a game - an industry - bloated by hundreds of millions of pounds of TV revenue.
Referees must be compelled to conduct media interviews after a match or the following day. They wield too much influence nowadays to enjoy the luxury of hiding behind bland utterances by Riley and PGMOL.
Oh, how Manchester City supporters would have loved to have seen Mark Clattenburg grilled on his decision to award THAT penalty against Raheem Sterling.
Similarly, City fans would have been intrigued to hear Roger East justify why he denied the very same Sterling, a nailed on spot kick after Everton’s John Stones wiped him out in the dying seconds of the Etihad league encounter.
Of course it cuts both ways. Everton fans would want answers from Martin Atkinson, as to why City’s second goal in the League Cup semi final 2nd leg was allowed to stand after the ball went out of play, before that man Sterling crossed to Kevin De Bruyne.
Post match interviews would, if nothing else, allow referees the right of reply or, in some instances, help diffuse situations by admitting an honest mistake.
The real problem would arise if they’re consistently apologising.
Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word, but if the same referees are saying it often enough they’d need sacking – they’d be either incompetent or bent.
It’s amusing that ex-ref Graham Poll – one of the most notorious, self righteous and loathed officials in his day – is now a Daily Mail pundit, pouring scorn on the likes Clattenburg. How appropriate then that Manchester City's outraged supporters serenaded Clattenburg with a derivation of the song that used to be reserved for Poll and went...'Oh Graham Poll he's f*@!ing a#*ehole...' (repeat endlessly!)
Sky Football’s Dermot Gallagher was also swift in his condemnation of Clattenburg’s bizarre and highly questionable penalty award to Spurs on Sunday.
But, back to the original point – the ‘leadership’ of Mike Riley – and the dire performances of the officials who he oversees.
It starts at the top, so it's time for Riley to return to his chosen career of accountancy and 'his' members either stop cooking the books or making rank miscalculations.
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu