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    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?

                Alex Griffiths speaking to the Bristol City head coach

                Britain Football Soccer - Bristol City v Sheffield Wednesday - Sky Bet Championship - Ashton Gate - 31/1/17 Bristol City manager Lee Johnson applauds the fans at the end Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Peter Cziborra 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.

                It's been a torrid time this term for the son of current Cheltenham Town boss Gary. Having played for Watford and Arsenal as a trainee, former Yeovil, Hearts and Kilmarnock midfielder Lee David Johnson was appointed Oldham boss at the grand old age of 31, the same age Eddie Howe was first time around at Bournemouth and three years older than was Steve Coppell at Crystal Palace.

                He fitted in a year in charge at Barnsley before the invitation came to follow in his old man's footsteps by taking the reigns at Ashton Gate in 2016. Alex Griffiths caught up with him to discuss Laws, bust-ups, technology and managing the expectations of fans under the closest media scrutiny.

                To pinch a question from the Michael Calvin book, Living on the Volcano, what would the manager Lee Johnson have made of the player?

                Let's take the negative first and I did struggle to compete at the higher levels. It was a genetic thing and I'm not actually talking about height here, where the size of Mum and Dad did not help! I'm talking about being short on power, so even though I worked hard on my fitness, there were times I could not help being dominated physically.

                Funnily enough, that led to me compensating by being good tactically and gaining a reputation as an organiser, which in turn helped lead me to become a manager.

                I know I was appreciated by my team-mates and I was brave, even if I wasn't the world's biggest tackler. I got the maximum out of my playing career by being so professional and working to drive standards upwards at every opportunity.

                Seeing as you brought him up, it must be a net gain having your dad do the same job... and have you stopped reminding him of Oldham 1, Yeovil 0 from back in 2013 yet?

                I beat him 6-0 last week in a behind-closed-doors friendly, so I have stopped going on about that one, yes! I suppose it stands to reason that the kid of a carpenter will tend to be good at woodwork, and if the relationship is a good one, with mutual respect, then naturally you want to make him proud of you. I played for him twice, and sometimes it was great, sometimes very difficult.

                Football Soccer Britain - Newcastle United v Cheltenham Town - EFL Cup Second Round - St James' Park - 23/8/16 Cheltenham Town manager Gary Johnson applauds fans after the match Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Craig Brough 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.

                How much of a part did his travels play in your education?

                I wasn't just exposed to Latvia, the country my dad coached when I was a boy, I've seen a lot of the football world. Of all the cultural differences, though, the biggest had to be Scotland!

                Don't get me wrong, it's an interesting side to refereeing and I think it's explained by human nature, not bias. But whenever you play one of the Old Firm you do feel handicapped.

                The officials are honest, but every poor decision against the Old Firm would guarantee back page headlines, and I saw what an effect that can have.

                It's another reason to expand video technology, actually, because if it were to be as successful as it has been so far, that would eradicate this human element that can creep into a decision.

                Have you any friends who referee or have ever given it a go?

                Well, my Aunty Lynn got to Level 3 I think, and she was reffing kids in the 14/15 age group for a while. As the mother of two boys she said she wanted to make sure she knew all the rules, and not just do it to keep them in line. You get so many guys watching and she enjoyed being able to explain her decisions in precise detail!

                She can't run around any more like she used to, but we as a family, where football runs in our blood, we were all really proud of her when she got her certificate.

                Any tellings-off for you, as it were?

                Oh, she used to tell me off regularly! In the best spirit possible she would advise me when I was being too verbal, and she used to think I talked to referees far too much.

                As an observer of your touchline style, is it a conscious decision to stand so you're as involved as possible, like you did recently for the fourth round cup tie at Turf Moor?

                That day at Burnley you could say I had a very good reason... even if it's only coaching your winger and your full-back at the expense of the others!

                It's quite a young group overall and I felt those two in particular, aged 19 and 20, needed help and guidance, whether the rain was pouring down or not.

                There's the argument that no one can hear you anyway, even them, and certainly not your strikers... it can be a fine line, and, if you stay sat down, people are sure to comment.

                Of course you need to remain calm too at times, while your instinct is to remain bold with your body language, so who knows!

                Don't forget, you have all those fans crying out for some passion and an owner behind you expecting you to make the right tactical call. I know people think it's all part of the show to some extent, but at this stage of my career I really want to be out there fighting with my troops.

                There have been meetings arising from run-ins of your own this season, like Reading away, so what did you make  of the spat which saw David Wagner and Garry Monk charged by The FA following Huddersfield's late win over Leeds?

                I can understand it from both their points of view actually, but both parties probably stepped over the line there. You've got a last-minute winner in a derby, and if you're Garry Monk it would have been less disrespectful had David Wagner not run across him, so it might have been avoided.

                It's a pity that it gets blown up like it has done, but you don't want to take the passion out altogether, do you? It just goes to show what a tough job it can be and the kind of pressures we are asked to contend with.

                Football - Manchester United v Chelsea - FA Community Shield - Wembley Stadium - 07/08 - 5/8/07 Manchester United's Wayne Rooney is booked by referee Mark Halsey as Ryan Giggs appeals Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Tony O'Brien

                What kind of ref did you prefer when you played?

                I like the ones you can have a chat to on the pitch and Mark Halsey stood out in that respect. I was very passionate as a player, so I would appreciate the more human referees who could empathise while still keeping to their original, instinctive decisions.

                Coaches need licences to take a job; referees have their own tests to undergo... what do you say to pundits having to take an exam!

                Now that's a good question! There are so many ways to attack people in the game for the general public now. What used to be confined to something said between mates over a pint can now find itself a global audience.

                Add to that mix the phenomenon of click-bait advertising which only encourages sensationalism and it's increasingly difficult to hold on to anything like fair criticism.

                Having said that, taking flak from pundits on whatever platform, and whether or not they are being paid for their opinion, is just something the younger generation of managers has no choice but to learn to live with.

                Is everything forgiven as far as you and officials is concerned?

                The key thing for me is that it's now so much more difficult for refs and their assistants than when I played, and at our level, until the Select Group 2, at least, it was a case of two professional teams and an amateur one for every game.

                In that situation they are not able to give football every minute of every day like we are and therefore they don't have as much time to get fitter, better and to learn how to manage people as well as they might.

                I am a big advocate of spending what it takes as well as expanding video technology simply because the game is literally too quick for most of them.

                If that means taking a larger slice of the finances and devoting it to development so we can have  more professionals, that day can't come soon enough.

                You can't help looking at Tammy Abraham, in our case, who can do 100m in 10.5 seconds; what chance does that give any assistant? We do feel that we have had a harsh year down here, and it has not balanced itself out, either. Pitches are slicker and quicker and unless you are an Olympic athlete you simply can't always catch that moment, when it's onside but given off, for example.

                 So we have just put you in charge of the Laws for the day, what do you do?

                I think the Laws are fine, there's not much wrong! I would not go for a sin bin for example, but I would take the fourth assistant and stick them in their own little room or van, whatever it might be, so they are available to the others and have the benefit of video replays.

                You'd take a cue from the tennis and limit calls to three or four a game, and you'd have to have sanctions for frivolous calls, obviously.

                I want to stress that we have the most honest refs in the world and for me they never make a decision for the wrong reason. The more help we can give them the better, and then we will see less frustration all round.

                I see technology taking away the need for any argument, because at the moment it's not as if the technology isn't there, it's that we have seen all their mistakes before they have had a chance to.

                Within 10 seconds we already know what's happened and they have to wait far longer before they can catch up! It just leads to anger and unnecessary frustration. I'm not one of those who wants to reinvent the wheel, I just want justice.

                  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!

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