There are some people out there who might reckon I’d be the last person in football to back a crackdown on dissent.
In fact, I’m all for it. Apart from those in the technical area, of course! Come on, I’m joking – I’ll tell you later why I’m in favour of punishing the bad-mouthing of officials.
But first this holding and pulling, grappling as they call it. Never really had it in my day. It’s bad for football and I’m personally delighted that referees are starting to get a grip in every sense. It’s been a long time coming. I knew it would take a big personality like Mike Dean to set the ball rolling.
Let’s just say he doesn’t turn his back on controversy. Maybe a nice way of putting it, but I’m all for the actions he’s taken.
Okay, you’re going to get some of these wrong but that’s the risk players are taking if they keep wrestling each other. It’s worth a few mistakes if we can drive it from the game. But some decisions are really straightforward and penalties should be given.
That said, I’m not against referees giving a warning – before a free-kick or corner is actually taken.
The danger is that it can be hard to spot who committed the first offence, the defender or the attacker, and I worry that some lesser referees, the more inexperienced ones, will feel obliged to follow suit and give penalties when they are not sure.
Another worry is that strikers will look to manipulate things by pulling a defender in the hope they will be pulled back and get given a penalty by a referee who’s only seen the second offence. Attackers may look to take advantage of the situation, just as they have done with diving.
Referees have got to be more aware and better positioned. But it’ll be great for the game if they stick to their guns. In my day you only had defenders putting their arms out. They weren’t tugging shirts and grabbing you round the neck. It’s almost like grievous bodily harm at times and it’s wrong to say it’s part and parcel of the game. Let’s get back to some proper defending.
I think that referees as a whole within PGMOL will be a bit tentative about this for a while. But once it’s sorted, they’ll be the first to say they did it!
As for dissent and the crackdown with yellow cards, it’s always been there and referees have always had the power to act. It can actually be a red card, never mind yellow, if it’s foul and abusive.
All round, I think the game is better for clamping down on this. There will be more bookings and suspensions for a while but players will start to know where they stand. And here it’s the top players who’ve got away with murder for far too long. They’ve dominated referees, who have been in awe of them.
But as I say, I think managers should be able to shout what they want from the touchline. Without any disciplinary action.
Come on, give me credit for a sense of humour, at least!