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football

    Britain Football Soccer - Manchester United v Arsenal - Premier League - Old Trafford - 19/11/16 Groundstaff tend to the pitch before the match Reuters / Phil Noble Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

    A sincere thank you to all those unsung heroes - the football groundstaff.

    During my era of refereeing from the 1960s to the 90s I can remember at this time of the season ploughing through muddy conditions and regularly being called in on Friday afternoon or early Saturday to inspect a pitch somewhere.

    Some of us can remember that muddy field where the great George Best weaved his way through the mud to pause on the goal line and then tap the ball into the back of the net.

    If you visit the National Football Museum in Manchester you will see that iconic photo of the great Sir Tom Finney creating a wall of water as he slides and attempts to pass the ball.

    Nowadays I am amazed how far playing surface technology has moved with vast sums of money spent on the structural make up of the field.

    Undersoil heating is taken for granted and in the middle of winter we see regular watering, even at half-time in some stadiums.

    Then we see the bank of high powered halogen lights being wheeled out to aid the growth of the grass which, at some grounds, is weaved in to blend with plastic artificial grass.

    The credit, however, must go to those unsung heroes, the groundstaff and the head groundsmen.

    Their hours of hard work and dedication produce a playing surface that enables those skilful players to demonstrate their technical skills - and there are fewer occasions when our weekend is disrupted by a cancellation.

      Football Soccer - Cruzeiro v Corinthians - Brazilian Series A Championship - Mineirao stadium, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 11/12/16. Players observe a minute's silence as respect for the Chapecoense players and the victims of the Colombia plane crash. REUTERS/Washington Alves

      It can be a lonely task to be the man out in the middle – so how much support should referees receive from the football authorities?

      Brazil’s new refereeing supremo seems content to hang them out to dry.  “After every game,” says Coronel Marcos Marinho, “we are going to put up on the site of the CBF (Brazil’s FA equivalent) videos of controversial moments, we’ll give our analysis, with the official position of the Referees Commission, and say if the decision was correct or not.”  This is a radical break with convention.

      Refereeing decisions are the target of complaints everywhere.  But the flood is especially big in Brazil – in part because of low job security for coaches and the fact that the position of club president is elected, so that playing to the gallery with conspiracy theories about refereeing never goes out of fashion.

      Coronel Marinho’s public trial by video runs the risk of legitimising these complaints – though the Coronel himself clearly believes that many of them have some foundation.

      “There are referees,” he says, “who have been in the system for ten years and are still making the same mistakes, even with training, orientation and evaluations.”

      And so changes will be made to this year’s national championship, which kicks off in May.  “We want to reduce the mistakes and have a more consistent criteria,” he says, justifying his option to create an elite squad of officials to take care of first and second division games.

      In the case of these top referees, the retirement age has been raised from 45 to 50, with the over-45s having to pass physical examinations in order to continue.  The maximum age for third and fourth division referees will be 42, and 40 for lower levels.  The obvious aim here is to renew from the bottom up, to clear out older officials who are not seen as top class and bring on the younger generation.

      The process of evaluation will also be tightened, with referees to receive a performance analysis 48 hours after the game.  “We’ll be looking at technical, tactical and disciplinary aspects, as well as what we call the content of the game, the emotional side, the personality of the ref and how he controls the match.”  That is not all.  “The referee will also receive a video of edited highlights of the key decisions, with comments on whether he got it right or wrong.”

      But it would appear that everyone else may have already seen this on the CBF website.  The doubt remains about whether public humiliation is the best way to improve long term results.  “You teach assistants and referees always to make the decision on what they see first,” said Marinho last year.  “If they start to think about what happened, they will start to make mistakes.”  But might the awareness of public judgement make them a little scared to trust their instincts?

        Author: Alan Biggs

        Football Soccer Britain - Liverpool v West Ham United - Premier League - Anfield - 11/12/16 Referee Mark Clattenburg gets out of the way from Liverpool's Jordan Henderson Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

        English refereeing chiefs are under pressure to combat a crisis with a “transfer market” for referees potentially forcing them to look abroad.

        It is a predictable scenario long foreseen by You Are The Ref experts. Professional Game Match Officials are having to wake up to the threat - but will it be too late?

        Certainly, the drain of English talent from the Premier League shows no sign of slowing with Michael Oliver touted for a switch to Major League Soccer in America following Mark Clattenburg’s move to Saudi Arabia.

        Keith Hackett, who once tried to lure Pierluigi Collina to England, believes PGMOL will have to “go into the market” amid the depletion of the Select Group which he feels has only around five referees of consistently reliable standard in the top flight.

        The organisation may first have to conduct an emergency review of a modest pay structure which has already cost them its top official and makes them vulnerable to having more lured overseas.

        Select Group referees are understood to be on a basic of around £100,000 a year. With international commitments on top, Clattenburg was thought to be earning in the region of £200,000.

        The Saudi Football Federation has clearly topped that figure by some distance. Speculation suggests Clattenburg is earning at least £500,000 in becoming Saudi’s refereeing chief.

        For a referee at just 41 years of age and at his peak, Clattenburg’s departure represents a huge blow for the Premier League, just as Howard Webb’s retirement at 43 had been equally damaging.

        Imagine the fall-out if Oliver, rapidly developing into one of the world’s best,  were to be lost at 31. Fortunately for PGMOL, there is a strong union influence on MLS referees which would make such a move highly unlikely and it is extremely doubtful that the PRO organisation are actually pursing Oliver.

        However, approaches from across the globe are more probable than possible.  It is a nightmarish scenario that PGMOL has to react to if standards of officiating, already a subject of some concern, are not to plummet further.

        Hackett, England’s former head of referees, said: “It is not being wise after the event to say urgent action is required. My colleagues and myself have been pointing to the danger for a long time now.

        “PGMOL have tended not to allow their referees to officiate prestige one-off matches around the globe and you can now see how short-sighted that policy has been. There is now a global market for referees, just as with players.

        “It is not a threat. That is the reality. In any walk of life, and certainly in sport, the top talent is much sought after and in football it attracts big money offers.

        “Clearly, the pay ceiling in the Premier League is too low. It has to be increased as a starting point.”

        This and other pressing issues will be discussed on this week’s Ref Show featuring Chris Sutton and former referee Dean Mohareb.

          Goal-line Technology

          Goal-line technology is to be introduced in the Championship from the start of next season in a move welcomed by You Are The Ref. Clubs have agreed "in principle" to use goalline technology from the start of next season.

          Clubs agreed to the decision on Thursday and it will be presented at the EFL annual general meeting in June. Our experts have repeatedly called for it to be introduced and the move will see Hawk-eye technology installed at all Championship clubs in order to assist referees and their assistants.

          SimiLar technology has been in operation in the Premier League since the 2013/14 season and is also already utilised in the latter stages of the EFL Cup and the Sky Bet EFL Play-Offs.
          Keith Hackett said: "I'm really delighted to see this development. There is so much money riding on clubs getting to the Championship that having this proven system is a must."

            Former assistant referee Glenn Turner and ex Sheffield Wednesday striker David Hirst both joined Alan Biggs on today's show and there was plenty to discuss. In particular, during the Arsenal v Hull City fixture, there was a contentious goal where Alexis Sanchez appeared to handle the ball during the Gunners first goal. Much discussion has followed, so much so, that game at Emirates, alone, takes up the whole of the first half. The panel discuss the incident and try to explain whether they would have given it or not. There were also talking points elsewhere in the Premier League and we also take a look at the new You Are The Ref academy....

              Stuart Attwell

              In a few weeks time, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body responsible for the laws of the game will consider the implementation of sin-bins on a trial basis. It would appear that trials might be considered at grassroots level, which frankly comes as a bit of a shock.

              This body appears to be unaware of the general shortage of grassroots referees around the world.
              It is long believed that in England alone, ten percent of our games do not have a qualified official in the middle. So many questions arise for the board to discuss before any implementation

              1. Will there be a sin-bin for each team?
              2. For what offences will a sin-bin sanction be applied?
              3. Will it replace the yellow card sanctions? If so, which ones?
              4. Can you be sent to the sin-bin on more than one occasion in a game?
              5. Who supervises the sin -bin?
              6. What happens if you commit an offence whilst in the sin-bin? Dissent, fight with another occupant etc.
              7. How big will the area be and where will it be situated?
              8. Will players who have been binned still have to pay a fine to local County FA's?
              9. Will the referee have a third coloured card to signal a sin-bin?
              10. How long is the punishment for a sin-bin offence?
              11. Does it increase if more than one player binned?
              12. Can occupants of the technical area be binned?

              What are your thoughts on this potential innovation? Does Junior Rugby Union operate sin-bins at grassroots level?

                Author: Alan Biggs

                kick-off

                Football's lawmakers are set to readjust a ruling that has been blissfully ignored by the majority of football fans but has driven aficionados of refereeing to distraction.

                That’s because one of the laws of the game is being blatantly broken in just about every game you see. And going unchecked by match officials.

                When the International Football Association Board allowed the ball to be passed back from the kick-off from the start of this season, hardly an eyelid was batted. Most fans greeted it with a shrug of the shoulder.

                What they failed to consider, and crucially the lawmakers themselves somehow failed to factor in, is that passing the ball back is almost physically impossible to achieve without breaking the existing law that all players must stand in their own half of the field at kick-off.

                The tweaking of Law 8 actually meant that it was being flouted.

                Now You Are The Ref understands that the IFAB, at its upcoming annual meeting in March, is likely to make another tweak to allow one player (the player taking the kick-off) to stray across the halfway line into the opposition half.

                Keith Hackett comments: “I’m surprised there was even a change to Law 8. Was it really necessary? Surely there were more important considerations.

                “It has created a lot of confusion and much comment within refereeing circles. Barely a day goes by without me receiving an email on this.

                “Don’t forget that a change of law like this applies across the whole game. Referees at all levels have been faced with the technicality that, to apply the law correctly, they would have to order a retake of virtually every kick-off.

                “Can you imagine the irritation and annoyance of players, managers and spectators if they actually did this?”

                Another valid criticism of the Law 8 tweak might be that it has been, in every sense, a backwards move rather than one designed to bring the game forward and make it more exciting.

                Allowing the ball to be passed back has seen nearly all games start in a sedate, sterile and arguably negative fashion. The focus has been on ball retention whereas some teams might attempt to be more adventurous in the past.

                Hackett added: “Football seems to have forgotten it is in the entertainment industry.”

                  Football Soccer - Atletico Nacional v Kashima Antlers - FIFA Club World Cup Semi Final - Suita City Football Stadium, Osaka, Japan - 14/12/16 Referee Viktor Kassai awards a penalty to Kashima Antlers Reuters / Kim Kyung-Hoon Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

                  Where there is a will, it is amazing the progress that can be made.

                  I was delighted to read that David Elleray, as technical director of the International Football Association Board, has announced that the use of the Video Assistant Referee may be introduced before the next World Cup in Russia.

                  I compliment him on the work he's doing to achieve this. For instance, I'm aware of his recent visit to the United States and Mexico, presumably to monitor progress and update these countries on the system.

                  It would appear that the live trials are making good progress. With France, Germany and Mexico keen to test the system themselves, I hope to see its introduction earlier than the two years previously forecast.

                  Shortly the IFAB will be meeting in order to be updated on the VAR.

                  Meanwhile, the IFAB annual meeting will be asked to extend the “Modifications” section of the Laws of the Game to give national football associations more freedom and responsibility to modify the organisational Laws, e.g. number of substitutions and length of play, to assist with the development of their domestic football by promoting and encouraging more people to take part in the game.

                  VAR - Ismail Elfath

                  National Football Associations will be permitted to decide at which levels the modifications are applied in their domestic football, except for competitions involving the first team of clubs in the top league and senior ‘A’ international teams.

                  Additionally, as part of “Modifications”, the proposal to allow temporary dismissals (sin bins) in youth, veterans, disability and grassroots football for yellow card offences will be considered following tests in UEFA’s development competitions over the last three years.

                  On the topic of video assistant referees (VARs), the AGM will receive updates on the completion of the first phase of experiments including reports from the workshops held and more than 20 test matches organised to test the VAR protocols which were approved one year ago.

                  The meeting will receive detailed information on the key learning areas which will be incorporated into the ‘live’ experiments starting in almost 20 competitions around the world in 2017.

                    Lee Mason

                    For the moment there seems to be little chance to draw breath and discuss broader subjects when every week there continues to be something major being missed by those taking charge of our top  domestic games.

                    Of course, there are many honourable exceptions and we can return to one later on, but Lee Mason, I'm afraid to say, has made a disastrous error in failing to correctly punish Sunderland's Jack Rodwell for his challenge on Mousa Dembele in midweek.

                    Mason was literally three yards away from what blatantly deserved a straight red card, and I know I had the benefit of seeing it in a studio with various monitors and angles, but for the life of me I don't understand how you can be so close and see that as a yellow.

                    It made me ask myself, can you sometimes not see the wood for the trees as the man in the middle? You can wonder about peripheral vision and whether he has moved on to another situation innocently and entirely forgivably. But I don't think those excuses apply here.

                    There can be no doubt he was out there on his own, and that in itself raises the potential thought process of his assistants: do they think to themselves, he is so much closer and has such a superior view to mine that I had better leave it to him and stay out of it? Who knows.

                    From a player's point of view, there are two ways to do what Rodwell decided to do, in other words break up an opposition counter-attack before it can get going. You can firstly body-check, trip or hold a shirt and the referee only really has the yellow card available as a sanction in that case, which surely we can all live with.

                    Then there's the heavy challenge after the ball has gone that Rodwell was clearly guilty of. Worse than that, he was endangering Dembele's safety by lashing out so hard, and needlessly so, at that.

                    Now while I don't feel there are any excuses for Mason here, I can obviously understand that players are fighting for their top flight livelihoods at this stage of the season and you can expect full commitment. I also recognise what a disadvantage it is going down to ten men when you are already up against it quite enough as it is.

                    The impact of relegation on a club is bigger than ever before and the same goes for the rewards on offer. But all the more reason to get these calls right, when the big moment comes in a big game and it is all on your shoulders.

                    Britain Football Soccer - Liverpool v Chelsea - Premier League - Anfield - 31/1/17 Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action with Liverpool's Adam Lallana Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

                    With that in mind Mark Clattenberg got everything spot-on for me at Anfield, no matter what pressure Steven Gerrard is still trying to exert on Howard Webb now they are on TV together!

                    There was enough in Lallana's challenge on Hazard for a free-kick to be given in my opinion, debatable as it may have been. And the free kick itself should serve as a reminder to all keepers to play to the whistle, which was clearly blown.

                    Let's face it, Mignolet might not have saved it anyway but it was certainly quick thinking by Luis, who cleverly tucked the ball away in the top corner to catch the keeper napping. No one from Liverpool can have any real complaints, so it was full marks to Mark and not to Mason this time!

                      Respect

                      There has been a lot of speculation about a national strike by grassroots referees in protest at widespread and unacceptable instances of match officials being abused.

                      You Are The Ref is against this proposal, which has emanated from calls by a young referee in one particular part of the country.

                      This is not because we don't believe there is a problem in this area or because we lack sympathy for officials on the ground. Far from it. The team here ran a recent campaign, highlighting abuse cases and calling for action on this cultural malaise in football.

                      We have expressed our concerns about the lack of respect shown towards our grassroots referees. I have also emphasised the need for referees to report incidents in an accurate manner.

                      Further, I hope the Football Association resurrect the Respect campaign and support it with a raft of sanctions that act as a true deterrent. For instance, my view is that where an assault on a referee takes place this should be dealt with by the police with the FA duly copied in with the facts. However, we also believe the solution lies in communication and education.

                      I am aware that the FA are currently in the process of recruiting a Respect Officer, soon to be appointed.

                      Our focus is on supporting young referees to enjoy the game - as is their right - and to progress within it. A withdrawal would be counter-productive in my view.

                      Today I received the results of a survey carried out by the Sheffield Referees Association and frankly I was delighted to see that they are very much against the organisation of a referees strike. We at You Are The Ref have been clear that we do not support strike action.

                      The preferred route is to ensure that when young referees take to the field they have been suitably trained in conflict management and how to cope and deal with abuse from parents on the touchline.

                      Mentoring and coaching are the key factors in ensuring that referees remain in the game and that they do not become one of those 7,000 who hang up their boots up at the end of each season.

                      The basic referees course would appear not to adequately prepare referees - as there is less than a 1% failure rate nationally. Every year around 7,000 referees are trained and a similar number lost.

                      Unless mentors are appointed to support the first few games of a new referee there is a higher chance of drop-out. The course requires this in two of the first six games but in reality we hear that this is not happening.

                      So more power to the FA in dealing with this issue proactively. A strike is not in the interests of football and something we do not wish to see.

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