Thursday, January 08, 2015

Riley determined to ignore his predecessor's insults

Luckily for him, Mike Riley appears to have the not inconsiderable weight of the Premier League behind him. If he didn't, then the man at the head of English refereeing might be having sleepless nights as several weighty figures try to get him kicked out, blaming him for mistakes being made by Premier League referees.
Keith Hackett, the man who was head of the Premier League Match Officials League before Riley, is leading the charge, aided by newly-retired referee Mark Halsey and Graham Poll.
Halsey undoubtedly had a major falling out with Riley towards the end of his career, partly over an autobiography that was not approved by the PGMO, who were at the stage Halsey's employers. The plain-speaking referee knew he was retiring, however, and said, "Publish and be damned."
Halsey and Hackett have teamed up this season to pan the elite group of referees who officiate in the Premier League, joining the constantly deafening squeals of protests on Social Media, which are in turn fuelled  by managers and players who prefer to blame the ref rather than their own inadequacies.
These two armchair critics have been laying into four or five of the top referees on a weekly basis for their mistakes. These are mistakes, I must add, that are only spotted when slo-mo replays are seen, not at real time in a packed stadium in a pressure cooker atmopshere.
For years I have made the point that referees will always make mistakes. The only way to avoid any mistakes is to go down the American route of having several referees and technology introduced for every contested decision. All well and good, except that the game would be ruined. A 90-minute game would probably have an hour added to it and play would become even more fractured than it is now.
But I'm not sure this is the issue.
I suspect the real issue here is a battle for the head position in England refereeing. I suspect Hackett wants Howard Webb to be the new king. At the moment, Webb is buried in television centre during games offering technical explanations to TV pundits. He's wasted.
I would have a little more sympathy for Riley if it wasn't for the shoddy treatment of England's top referee Mark Clattenburg.
Clattenburg has been demoted several times recently after being suspended for a game following his decision to drive his own car to the Hawthorns so that he could make a quick getaway after a Crystal Palace game to get home to the Northeast in time for a concert. A minor breach of protocol perhaps, worthy of a frown and a quiet word from Riley.
Instead, he was pilloried for it.
Last weekend, the reason given for him not officiating was said to be that he was on holiday. It's hard to believe that Clattenburg would be taking holiday during the season if he hadn't already been told he wouldn't get a match.
Clattenburg is well placed to represent England at the European Championships and the World Cup in Russia in 2018. But he won't get there if he's not refereeing.

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