Time to invest in our refs

We are all human, we all make mistakes

I don’t envy referees. They go out there every week at all levels of the game and do their best. And what do they get in return? A small fee, some expenses, often nothing. But actually, the main thing they get is abuse. From players, managers, fans, directors. They can never keep everyone happy.

As clubs, we all try to focus on mental health but yet when it comes to referees, it seems that it is fair game to go after them.
I’m writing this as I reflect on Drogheda’s exit from the cup on Saturday. After a sleepless night and too much time moaning on social media, I’m trying to take a step back and think about this logically and reasonably.

Yes, I felt that a number of refereeing decisions were not right. And I do feel we suffered as a result of them. But did Paul McLaughlin go out on Saturday to deliberately try and favour Derry over Drogheda? Of course he didn’t. He made decisions that he thought were right and, in most instances, indeed they were right. The only problem is that I feel one big decision was wrong:

– Down to 10 men, our captain, Jimmy Brown, is tripped in the box. From my perspective and with the benefit of video evidence, it seems a clear-cut penalty. Paul sees it as simulation, gives Jimmy a second yellow and he’s off. The result of this is:

– We are denied a penalty and we might have gone 2 up with 10 minutes to go.
– We then play the rest of the match and extra time with 9 men.
– Jimmy, one of our star players, is now suspended and misses crucial matches.
– Our manager, Tim Clancy, understandably, is hugely upset and gets sent off so we now miss him for a number of matches.

This is the second time this season that Drogheda has had a man sent off for simulation and that’s just not the type of players we have.
But I still think that Paul McLaughlin did his best on the day. However, surely we have to have some form of process whereby in retrospect some of these decisions can be challenged? Apparently, we can’t appeal any cards – so there’s no recourse to us appealing Jimmy’s sending off?

Clearly, this looks like a Drogheda moan. But I think every manager in the league will always have concerns over officialdom. Every club suffers, but so do referees. It’s not a great feeling in any walk of life when you make mistakes (and we all do) but that they are in the public glare. Rarely does anyone talk about the great decisions you get right.

It’s clear to me that there has been a lack of investment in officialdom across all levels. The FAI needs to invest in more training, ongoing reviews and independent assessment. Or, more radically, as the standards improve on the pitch, perhaps it’s time for the league to have full-time referees. Personally, I think that is the only way forward.

Who’d be a ref, eh?

Further reading

Reserve League

Back in the 1970s and early 80s, there were only two football results that mattered to me, those of Drogheda United and Drogheda United B.  Each week, we would see the B division’s results and table listed in the paper and you would wonder how...