It’s been a while since I took the football referee’s exam, but I could have sworn (excuse the pun) abuse of officials has always been a red card offence.
So I decided to look it up and, lo and behold, under law 12 which covers discipline, this appears under sending-off offences: ‘using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures’.
So why the publicity glare surrounding an ‘initiative’ from those who control football (or the Premier League as we know them) to stamp out the more awful examples of foul-mouthed behaviour?
It’s a publicity stunt pure and simple.
The tools are already in place to punish the abusive, the ignorant and the out-of-control.
We just need officials with the balls to implement the laws rigorously.
Instead these Premier League referees have been attending workshops this summer designed to help them deal with over-aggressive behaviour.
Excuse me? At £80k a year and £1,100 a match, I’d expect the likes of Michael Oliver and Mark Clattenburg to know the laws already and be able to apply them properly without fear or favour.
The apparent aim of the ‘crackdown’ is of course hard to criticise, but anyone believing it will actually happen probably also believes Sam Allardyce (a manager with a losing record in the Premier League) is going to outwit international bosses on behalf of England.
I predict now that Wayne Rooney will get away with swearing in frustration at our hopeless officials, but the captain of Wimbledon or Posh will not be so leniently treated.
Too many of our referees are starstruck and desperate to stay on first-name terms with Premier League stars.
I blame Graham Poll for letting Rooney gob off at him for five minutes of a Premier League game between Manchester United and Arsenal live on television many years ago without sanction.
This is the same Poll who can be seen moaning these days in the Daily Mail about the failure of a referee to send off a top-flight player for abuse in the last decade.
I do hope a few high profile names see red for intimidatory behaviour, but I’ll believe it’s happening when the truly awful John Terry gets first use of the bath at Stamford Bridge. I can’t see it happening though.
And I see Championship referees will soon be full-time professionals as if that’s going to improve their decision-making or application of the common sense law.
If I was in charge, I’d start introducing yellow cards for goal-scoring celebrations that linger for more than 30 seconds, for substitutions that take longer than 30 seconds to complete, for any act of play-acting after a strong tackle and for goalkeepers who take a simple catch and then fall to the floor for 20 seconds.
Footballers seem to take a perverse delight in short-changing a public who are paying ever-exorbitant admission prices by delaying the game at every opportunity.