It’s Tough in the Middle

As a new writer here on Sportupdateuk, I thought I’d choose that most obvious of targets for my first blog post – the referee. More specifically, I’d like to focus on those referees at the centre of a storm in the Midlands derby this weekend.

Phil Dowd is a man that is familiar to Villa fans far and wide already for his decision-making – his decision to not send off Nemanja Vidic two Carling Cup finals ago irked many and infuriated more among the claret and blue faithful, so his latest display is hardly likely to endear him to the Holte End faithful.

With that said, he’s hardly likely to win any fans five miles up the road in West Bromwich, either. Roy Hodgson was highly critical after the game, suggesting that a high tackle by Alan Hutton was worthy of at least some punishment or reprimand. An inconsistent display was further marred by a penalty decision and red card against Chris Herd that has left even the very best pundits confused.

Just after the half hour mark the rookie Aussie defensive midfielder seemed to tangle with the colossal figure of Jonas Olsson, with linesman Darren Cann flagging for the foul. Cue confused noises from the Villans in attendance, and jubilant celebrations from Olsson and others. Chris Brunt skewed the penalty horribly wide – but the deeper question for me still persists: how can Dowd and Cann be allowed to continue their duties without justifying their actions?

In a variety of sports we see a positive dialogue developed between crowd, participants and officials. Umpires in cricket are permitted to call for TV replays, in tennis, we see an explanation of every call for every relevant point, and in rugby the conversations and instructions given by the man in the middle are broadcast to all audiences. How could fans inside Villa Park this weekend have possibly realised what decision that had been made, and for what reason? Why have the referee and his assistant  been able to slink away from the media furore surrounding the decision, while Alex McLeish and perhaps even Herd himself have been forced to deal with the incident in a public manner?

The referee’s report is one thing – it surely contains vital information about the game in question. But why is this not published freely? Why are referees not held to account when they make a decision? Why must a manager have to deal with the fallout of something that is clearly human error?

I’m not going to say that Villa would have won the game if the incident hadn’t occurred – that would be an insult to a battling West Brom side who comfortably outplayed the beleaguered ten men, but perhaps the promising first 30 minutes of football could have swelled to become a greatly entertaining game. But instead, we had the remaining sixty minutes, punctuated with further refereeing inconsistencies, more frustration from the fans, and  a referee that seemed not to care about the impact of his decisions.


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