Commentary

Plans to end clam up over refs' clampdowns

Even before Jon Moss' decision making united two irate sets of supporters against him at the King Power Stadium on Sunday, the Premier League was planning to clarify referees' actions to fans via the media. From next season, if officials agree, explanations will be supplied within 30 minutes of the final whistle.

The intention is to introduce the referee's thought process into the heated post-match debate, which has spiralled into an examination of refereeing standards after events during Leicester City's 2-2 draw with West Ham United.

The aim is for a delegate from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited to speak to the referee at the ground and immediately contact football writers, television and radio commentators to disseminate his reasons. It's good to talk (albeit via a proxy).

There has been discussion at PGMOL over whether referees should front up to the rights-holding broadcaster post-match, clearing up any confusion by spelling out points of law or the logic behind decisions. Putting referees in front of the cameras, even friendly ones, is fraught with danger and an idea unlikely to be pursued.

Many referees do not want the limelight, but, at least, the idea of informing journalists will bring some detail to the debate.

If applied to Sunday's controversial meeting, the delegate could have gleaned an account from Moss over a range of talking points:

•Why he decreed Jamie Vardy's challenge on Cheikhou Kouyate worthy of a yellow (while, for instance, Danny Simpson's on Dimitri Payet was not)

•Why he was certain that Vardy dived after being pulled back by Angelo Ogbonna

•Why he punished Wes Morgan for grappling but not Ogbonna or Robert Huth (for even greater offences) and

•Why he felt Andy Carroll had fouled Jeff Schlupp.

Referee Jon Moss' decisions in Leicester's 2-2 home draw with West Ham United infuriated both sets of fans. The Premier League has plans to explain officials' actions via the media next season.
Referee Jon Moss' decisions in Leicester's 2-2 home draw with West Ham United infuriated both sets of fans. The Premier League has plans to explain officials' actions via the media next season. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Most of the decisions divided fans, managers, pundits and former referees alike, providing little consensus, inevitably in the social-media age where everyone has a platform. If next season's proposal had been in place, Moss' views could have been conveyed to the media, dampening some of the hysteria around the decisions.

One footballing executive confided that all the uproar was simply good publicity for the league, dominating the sporting agenda further, yet more insight from referees, even the weaker ones, would be welcome.

The fallout intensified on Monday with Vardy being charged, and expected to be banned for the trip to Manchester United as well as the home game to Swansea City. If Vardy's additional sanction was hardly unexpected, after his offensive outburst towards Moss, the real surprise was that the FA only wrote to Carroll asking for his observations about his "evening things up" comment, surely a slur on the referee. Given the uproar they may decide to review.

FA inconsistency will simply infuriate Leicester further. Their fans reacted indignantly, arguing everything from double standards, to the FA doesn't want a "smaller club" to win the title, to the governing body simply giving Vardy a breather before the European Championship finals. Nonsense, of course, but the anger must be used cleverly by the team, using it as fuel for the fire on a run-in that has become trickier.

Having penalised Morgan, Moss should have reined in the other miscreants. It's all or none. It's not simply consistency during the match, it's throughout the leagues.

Deliberations around officiating also focused on Moss' inconsistency over the wrestle-mania occurring at set pieces. One manager revealed that a PGMOL referee briefed his players pre-season, saying they would be watching for man-handling in the penalty area, but admitting that there was little chance of it being effectively and consistently policed.

Having penalised Morgan, Moss should have reined in the other miscreants. It's all or none. It's not simply consistency during the match, it's throughout the leagues.

Huth, in particular, is a serial offender but is hardly alone. Liverpool's Martin Skrtel is another with WWE tendencies. Moss, though, seemed to be making a unilateral stand against blocking, baulking and holding, which many will commend, but other referees may decide it is impossible to apply the law frequently and fairly.

If the FA and PGMOL are to have clampdowns, they should come at the start of the season, following a briefing with each squad. All referees should be engaged in curbing the offence, not just one.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Plans to end clam up over refs' clampdowns'. Print Edition | Subscribe