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Referees missing (in)action

There has been a substantial amount of controversy surrounding the standard of refereeing in the A-League this season. Red cards given that are later overturned by a less-than-reassuring match review panel, baffling free kick decisions, a lack of any consistency, players being booked for diving when they haven’t dived, not being booked when they have, penalties not given when they should be, or given when they shouldn’t – the list does tend to go on a bit. Beyond that, the less than impressive A-League officiating debuts for Chris Boyle and Kurt Ams did nothing but make an existing issue even more noticeable to both the hardened A-League fanatic as well as the casual observer. However, regardless of all that, there is an indiscretion in refereeing this season that, in my opinion, is far more important.

Firstly, let’s look at some refereeing data for this season (up to and including Week 6 fixtures). The table below represents the games officiated by each referee through the first six rounds of the 2010-11 season. But let’s break this data down a little further.

At the top of the table we find that four of the more experienced referees in the A-League (Beath, Green, Williams and Breeze) have presided over the most games. At the bottom of the table, four inexperienced referees have been given a smaller amount of games, in an obvious attempt by the A-League and FFA to ‘blood’ a new batch of referees to take up some of the slack as the competition, and the amount of fixtures each week, expands. So far, and regardless of the performance some of these rookie referees have put in, this seems to be very logical.

In fact, the biggest gripe I have with the allocation of games to referees this year has nothing to do with who has refereed and those appearing in the table above. My biggest complaint is with who hasn’t refereed – those names that mysteriously do not appear. If you look at that table again there are two glaring omissions; Strebre Delovski and Michael Hester.

Not only did Delovski win the A-League’s Referee of the Year award for the 2009-10 season, he has consistently shown himself to be one of the fairest and most consistent referees over the last few seasons, and actually managed to referee an A-League grand final without sending anyone off. So why is it that after 6 rounds of the 2010-11 season, we have a situation where the reigning ‘champion’ of Australian referees is warming the pine?

And how is it that Michael Hester can go from refereeing the Greece vs Korea Republic game (pretty well too, I must add) on the biggest sporting stage in the world, to having refereed a total of zero games in this season’s A-League. At least the other Australasian representative on the World Cup referees panel, fellow New Zealander Peter O’Leary, has managed to rack up two games through the first six rounds, but even then is that really enough for a referee that FIFA themselves obviously rate so highly?

Now, obviously, the big presumption in all of this is that these referees have no other commitments outside of refereeing, and that it is a clear error by the FFA to not have them in action week-in, week-out. Unfortunately, that is not the case as outside of football Delovski is an accountant, Hester is a naval officer and O’Leary a schoolteacher. So the reason for these referees not being on the field each week could be something as simple as ‘work commitments’. If this is the case, it gives more credence to those calling for either professional referees across the entire league (that is, referees whose day job is to be a referee), or a core group of professional referees that would be supplemented with part-time referees who would pick up the slack.

Hopefully, for myself and all A-League fans, these referees I have mentioned are back on the field sooner rather than later and that the first six rounds have just been an anomaly. As, unfortunately, with their absence so far this season the quality of officiating has certainly dropped. And if this drop in quality continues for the remainder of the season, the calls for professional referees in the A-League will definitely be heard once more.

Justin is the Editor and Creator of Ultimate A-League. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/justintickner

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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