A Sutton United Front: The Refereeing Puzzle

Article by Johnnie Lowery

I decided I’d wait until after I’d seen the highlights of the Aldershot game before commenting on the refereeing – I’m well aware it’s easy to be caught up in the moment and criticize a ref before being proved wrong in retrospect.

I’ve now watched back the red card decision from Monday and I’m just as angry as before – it’s a simply appalling decision that’s completely changed the outcome of the game.

What’s more, it’s not the first time this season and at just 7 games in it won’t be the last either.

The simple fact is that the standard of officiating in this division is simply not good enough, and it’s a shame for the players who train hard to reach the top of their game and the diehard fans who spend thousands travelling to watch their side only to spend their afternoons effectively watching the ref instead.

I’m sure it’s not just Sutton fans feeling this way too – I imagine that even halfway through the season every club will be able to cite a wrong decision that’s completely changed the game at least once.

It’s hard to blame just the refs themselves for this in fairness (though I’m sure even Mr Brook would appreciate 12 red cards in 26 games is an obscene amount), as someone pointed out on Saturday the fact that higher up leagues all get fourth officials means that most high standard officials at this level are dragged upwards and away from the National League.

Many referees are simply promoted too quickly when they would surely benefit from a more steady progression to reach the top of their game.

So what to do about it?

There’s no easy solution, and I’m certainly not qualified to find it if there were, but it’s impossible to miss all the calls for greater funding to grassroots football for facilities and similar things.

Referees’ fees, especially at our level, are tiny and with all the miles they have to travel I’m quite frankly amazed anyone wants to do it.

With such little incentive you’ll have a smaller pool of refs to choose from, and it follows that you’ll end up with a lower standard.

Could greater grassroots funding extend to higher refereeing fees?

Like I said earlier it wouldn’t be an easy fix but would definitely help to address what is without a doubt an issue in the National League.