Men in Black

I can’t wait to get out of this division. You can’t wait to get out of this division. Hell, there can’t be a resident of this pungent filthy recess known as the Nationwide League Division Three who doesn’t spend a day without the thought of a Steve McQueen style escape crossing their severely numbed mind.

The well-known and oft publicised reason for this eternal hope is the quality of football, the third division is easily the most technically inept batch of mules and giraffes cunningly disguised as ‘sportsmen’, and the fact that Leo Fortune-West earns good money here proves how miserable this league is. Not even Morrissey would put himself through some of the shite on offer here.It says a lot about Hull City that we’ve propped up most of this division for two long, lonely years. In spite of the recent years misery (so depressing it would drive Thomas Hardy to suicide) , this season will be a different story. We are no longer Hateley’s halfwits or Dolan’s dildos and luminaries such as Bob Dewhurst and Kevin Gage are long gone as the new and improved Tigers strive to take this piss poor division by the scruff of its neck.

However, the first round KO we anticipated has not occurred, but a win on points is surely on the cards. There is no doubt. Nevertheless, something has to contradict our new found optimism doesn’t it? And we all know what it is. Those shadowy figures seen at every match, henpecked, misguided souls with every intention of sabotaging our season, yet the club and FA sit back, powerless and weak, allowing these individuals free reign. Obviously, I’m talking about referees here, and Third Division referees in particular.

When Mr. Armitage-Shanks of Weston Super-Mare safely locks his Volvo and proceeds to Boothferry Park for the all important promotion decider sporting a Hitler-esque ‘tache (the matchday programme listing his hobbies as collecting lace and sniffing ambidextrous hunchbacks) is his mind on football at all? I firmly doubt it. He is employed as a school teacher full-time, with a sideline controlling sporting events important to people world-wide. Yet his mind is on this part time venture just once a week, in between coaching impressionable young men the appliance of Pythagoras.

If I were to be employed in a job in which I knew nothing of, or was just plain shit at I would surely be sacked. Crap managers (none spring immediately to mind) get the sack, crap referees, well they are simply dumped on Division Three.

Diabolical officials keep on coming, as David Laws and Brian Coddington have proved. They keep their part time jobs while clubs lose points, as last season’s Carlisle/Scarborough shenanigans have highlighted. Had it not have been for these strange hobby pursuing chaps City would be at least mid-table as I write this. Should Greavesie have walked at Exeter? No, we lost late on. Cheltenham scored the only goal of our clash with the Robins at Whaddon Road from a non-existent penalty and while the penalty awarded against Bracey at home to Macclesfield was warranted, he should not have received marching orders leaving young Matt ‘the Cat’ Baker to deputise.

Almost every game this season has been the victim of a ruinous referee, the worst display of officiating thus far came in the Chester home win. The most inconsistent, inept and confusing decisions, brought to a head when Greaves, on the right flank adjacent to the linesman tried to control a long ball to no avail, as it bounced out of play. Right in front of the ref and his apprentice, Greaves touched the ball five times (at least) before the ball went out of play, Chester throw right? No, actually the decision went our way, Hngh??? Okay, I didn’t fuss, but this added to all the constant flag waving and whistle tooting, highlighted the problem of refereeing. Nothing is done to solve this problem, indeed it is only made worse. Sepp Blatter’s schemes of officiating are scarring our beautiful game (remember the proposal for kick-ins to replace throw-ins?) and taking away a decent flaming game of footy. The backpass rule aside, FIFA has just made one blunder after another.

As for the androids themselves, we have more difficulties. I look upon refs with the same regard I have for Margaret Thatcher, but with so many ex-footballers earning a living outside of the game, is it not possible to offer an incentive for players to stay involved in the game as opposed to the maladjusted specimens we have to live with? After all, there are only so many ‘Football in the community’ vacancies and it must be as rewarding as being a licensee. Refs are amateurs in a professional world, this is the equivalent of signing Deano from Ferriby but allowing him to continue training at Church Road. It’s not on is it?

They work at school (or whatever) all week before taking charge of a match for which the two teams have spent all week preparing for. When this preparation is ruined by an outsider, it is nothing short of vile. If I ran on the pitch and made a great saving tackle I would be subject to the full wrath of the law, yet a referees interference can change the course of a game beyond recognition and they’ll get paid for the trouble.

What is the solution? Perhaps it’s the much vaunted idea of introducing pro refs, who train with their local clubs. With all the money in football, this should be possible. iI also believe that one individual should not wield full control of a contest like is the situation at present. How about the introduction of Video evidence and another official in the press box as three men can only see so much.Pro-refs (preferably ex-players) between the ages of 35 and 55 could be eligible to referee games, after which they become a fifth official, armed with knowledge and experience of playing the game, manning a video (which is used only in goalline and sending off incidents in order to maintain the speed of the game).

I think these ideas should be experimented with at least, in an attempt to save our game from card happy turf nazis. Besides the thought of Billy Whitehurst refereeing a game at Wembley is more entertaining than a slap headed jockstrap sniffer from Harrow.

Danny Lodge