EDITORIAL: Referee punishment shows FA have a long way to go

They say the standard of referees has slipped in recent years, with the calls going out for full-time officials throughout the Football League, but the FA have surely made a fool of themselves this week with their treatment of David McNamara.

McNamara isn’t a Football league referee, yet, but he is an official in the women’s game. He’s recently been carpeted for improvising after forgetting his coin in a Women’s Premier League match.

He was in charge of the Manchester City against Reading match recently, but found he’d left his coin in the dressing room. Rather than delaying the game, he improvised and asked the players to play ‘rock, paper, scissors’ instead.

That decision has proven costly, the official has been given a three match ban for not acting in the interests of the game. In acting with such draconian methods, the FA have proven that they’re part of the problem in hand.

Even former top flight referee Keith Hackett believes the punishment is ridiculous, saying: “Who at the Football Association took the decision to suspend a young referee who made the mistake of forgetting his coin?”

“Three-week suspension is draconian. A player who gets a three-match ban can be back playing in 7/10 days.”

There’s been a wave of support for McNamara, with many grass-roots referees choosing to use the game as a way of starting their own matches this weekend.

McNamara is an up and coming referee who usually takes control of National League North matches, as well as the WSL. His name will now become synonymous with something FA women’s refereeing manager Joanna Stimpson described as ‘a poor decision’. Imagine if every referee was vilified so openly by the FA for a poor decision? Trevor Kettle would have been retired years ago.

The Real EFL feels that the FA are in the wrong here, discouraging a referee for using initiative that in fact did not harm the game. Having been at matches where offside has been given from a throw in, where handballs have been ignored and players sent off for the most ridiculous of things, this move is simply the wrong message to send.

If they want to ban a referee for three weeks, it should be over-zealous officials who have red cards overturned, like Graham Salisbury did for Notts County against MK Dons a couple of weeks ago. It should be the decisions that affect club’s seasons, league placings and make fans despair, not something trivial such as this.

The Football League has a problem, referees are not full-time and as such the whole game hinges on over-worked men who spend their weeks selling insurance or delivering letters, but at the weekend hold the fate of thousands of fans and their heroes in the palm of their hands.

If we’re to improve that standard we need to encourage referees to use initiative in certain situations and we need to ensure the flow of officials capable of managing such matches continues.

What we must not do is punish a man for such a trivial crime, but let other shoddy referees ply their trade apparently untouchable every weekend.

 

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