The golden solution to refereeing woes?
Everyone has seen the minute-long video of perennial lime-light stealer Mike Dean. Flamboyance saturates. Arrogance suffuses. There is even a point where he appears to celebrate a goal. In truth, his self-regard is such he is probably congratulating himself for playing advantage.
Dean is symptomatic of a wider culture threatening to undermine the Premier League. The standard of refereeing is in concerning decline. Too many dubious decisions determine match outcomes.
Arsene Wenger was left fuming when his side was pegged back by bottom-table West Brom thanks to a harsh decision against Calum Chambers. From just a yard away the 22-year-old was felt to have 'purposefully' handled the ball, preventing ex-Arsenal left-back Keiran Gibbs' cross from reaching the box. The decision was farcical. Wenger was justified in feeling aggrieved though his own decision-making has been in question for some time now.
By the way, it was Mike Dean who gifted the Baggies a lifeline.
Amidst the rambling tirade Wenger espoused afterwards, there was one enlightening, perhaps productive point.
There is a shortage of referees and the system of promoting young ones doesn’t work. We should have a bigger league of referees and the guys who have a bad patch can go down to the second division and we promote young refs.
The FA may already has a system in place that ranks referees' performance levels. The traffic light protocol rates each decision green (good), amber (ok), or red (wrong). This retrospective gaze has done little to improve officiating standards in the English football pyramid, as it is said to only occur in the top flight.
There is a compelling merit to Wenger's suggestion to create a refereeing pyramid with promotion and relegation. The most qualified, consistent officials should be taking charge in the most critical matches. When their form dips, they should drop down until they work through their issues.
A league system would most certainly be in the public's interest and should be made accessible to the footballing audience. Granted, there would be greater scrutiny applied in what is already an unenviable, pressurised profession. Managers, players, and fans may come into a fixture with a preconceived bias against a particular referee due to his ranking. The Wengers and Mourinhos of the world take the liberty to "coach" young officials. The FA will need to clamp down on that in the same manner it has abuse and retroactive criticism of the senior men in black (and innocent water bottles caught in the wrong place at the wrong time).
Another aspect to consider is who judges referees' performance? The current message from the hierarchy to officials appears lost in translation. Arguably, the serving committee should hand over inspection to neutral non-affiliated personnel, equipped with a handbook of the actual rules, and not subject to individual interpretation.
This is not to advocate insidious mob rule wherein public consensus dictates, rather to suggest unbiased, cogent, sensible figures determine performance levels and subsequent responsibilities.
The state of refereeing is lamentable. Something needs to change. A refereeing league would be an innovative, intriguing vaccine for a virus that is maliciously spreading.