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Refereeing in the Premier League, has it hit rock bottom?

Wednesday 8th March 2017
We never seem to go through a Premier League weekend without a dubious refereeing decision or a missed incident from one of the officials. This leaves pundits and fans alike scratching their heads or worse, furious with rage. Last weekend proved no different with the officiating of games falling into serious question.

It was announced this week that both Tyrone Mings and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been charged by the FA for their respective incidents in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off at Old Trafford. And rightfully so too! Mings' stamp on the head of Ibrahimovic is unforgivable and the big Swedes reply in the form of an elbow is well outside the laws of the game. Justice has indeed been done but it really begs the question, why were they not punished on sight? Now it isn't to say that human error is none existent and referees should see everything and be completely flawless, that would be insane. But these two incidents weren't exactly subtle, and it seems that almost every week major incidents and decisions are being missed by the referee in charge.

The Liberty Stadium incident.

Just hours after Kevin Friend's laughable performance at Old Trafford, Anthony Taylor conducted his own circus at the Liberty Stadium where Swansea hosted Burnley. In what turned out to be a 3-2 thriller Taylor awarded Burnley a penalty for handball when it seemed obvious for all to see that the ball, in fact, struck Sam Vokes, who is, of course, a Burnley player! A sense of bewilderment really did fall all around the ground. Even those of Burnley allegiance were shocked by the decision.
It has since been reported that a host of Premier League referees were celebrating Anthony Taylor's stag party. This was just days before the matches at the weekend which has led to even more heated pressure.

They are of course entitled to their own personal lives. However, such news can only lead to more scrutiny when such dubious decisions are being made in games. Maybe organising such an event for the international break would have been wiser? Just a thought.

Demotion the key?

It was only a short time ago of course that Mike Dean was demoted to the Championship after wrongfully dismissing West Hams Sofiane Feghouli in their home clash against Manchester United. It would be fair to say that he was perhaps made an example of in this situation, he certainly wasn't the only referee to make an error within the season of that scale but none the less action was taken for his poor performance.

Perhaps knocking an under-performing official down a league and giving lower league referees is an answer to the farcical situation the Premier League finds itself in now. Maybe the punishment was a little harsh on Mike Dean but when you see his almost pantomime like performances week in week out you really can't have any sympathy for him. The way he conducts himself on the pitch is nothing short of laughable. You need only look at social media to see the sheer comedy act he brings.

The ref's ref

Former Referee chief Keith Hackett has been very vocal in his criticism of the refereeing blunders of the past weekend, citing Kevin Friend's refereeing of Manchester United's draw with Bournemouth as "the worst for some time." Hackett certainly can't be far off the mark, with the undeniably laboured way the game was conducted and the laughable decisions given throughout. Friend's even seemed to forget that he had already given Andrew Surman a yellow card prior to his foul that in turn saw him dismissed. One quote from Hackett's damning verdict on his fellow professional leaves a striking blow, "Ultimately, the referees are paid to get these big decisions right and to control the proceedings but he was almost sleeping, allowing things to go."

This, all be it completely spot on, doesn't just apply to Kevin Friend. It can be said for so many referees this season in the top flight alone.

Some suggest it's a lack of understanding of the game that sees referees perform so poorly. Some believe it's an egotistical thing and that the referees want some form of spotlight. Whatever the case may be you really can't hide from the fact the standard of officiating this season is as poor as they come. We seemed to have reached a stage where poor refereeing is normal.  Major errors happen more often than not.

Something has to be done, something must change because at the current state it has real potential to ruin the Premier League.
Ryan Stewart

23 years old, Sport Journalism graduate living in Salford. Work in web content in Media city and always looking to break in to sports writing. Manchester United season ticket holder.

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