Controversial refereeing is always in the news. From Maradona’s 1986 ‘hand of God’ goal to Sunday league scraps, there is no one that suffers more abuse than the referee.
A quick ‘football referee’ search online turns up plenty of headlines in the past week alone. Quotes from players and managers calling ‘corrupt refs’ out, referees charged with match-fixing, female referees suffering verbal abuse from the fans. Sometimes, there is no justification for the criticism, but sometimes the ref is truly in the wrong.
This was definitely the case in Nettleham on Sunday. West Bromwich Albion Women paid Nettleham Ladies is visit at Mulsanne Park. Start to finish, it was a scrappy, physical game fraught with fouls. With the final kick of the game, the visitors took the lead with a much-disputed goal.
This referee led the Netts goalkeeper to believe the ball was hers after a West Brom striker went studs first into her stomach. However, when she put the ball on the floor, ready for the kick, the attacking team slipped in front of her and found the back of the goal while she was unprepared.
While the visitors celebrated their 2-1 win, the Netts called for the goal to be disallowed on the grounds that the referee was distracting the keeper. However, as the final whistle went, the hosts had to accept their defeat, feeling cheated after a game that they dominated until injury time.
After the game, Nettleham LFC manager, Richard Cooper, said: “it’s a very very cruel blow”.
“Maybe the standard of refereeing is my biggest concern going into the World Cup” ~ Phil Neville
This is a problem on every level of football, from hyper-local to international. There are over 3,000 referees worldwide with FIFA international status, and Lionesses’ manager, Phil Neville is calling for a better standard of refereeing on the international stage. With the women’s World Cup on the horizon and no VAR in sight, Neville fears that if the referees they have worked with so far will hinder the growth and quality of the game.
The referees set to work at the World Cup aren’t trained to use the VAR equipment like they were for the men’s World Cup. Neville said: “Having VAR at the World Cup doesn’t worry me; the standard of refereeing does. If we want to make the women’s game the absolute top, we are asking a lot of the players and we’re putting them under immense pressure to challenge them and make them better professionals, that’s my biggest concern.”