We need to talk about A-League refereeing

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Give 'em more money, and A-League referees may just improve. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

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You can bet your last dollar Thomas Broich will play against Western Sydney Wanderers next weekend, despite being sent off against the Newcastle Jets on Saturday night.

Not since Thierry Henry handballed his way to South Africa over Ireland has a referee managed to get a relatively simple decision so wrong.

Lucky Broich is a lover not a fighter: his reaction of sheer bemusement at referee Brenton Hayward’s decision to show him a red card might have been different from a more combative player.

Perhaps the most plausible explanation for Hayward’s decision to send Broich off for his phantom offence is that he saw Newcastle defender Josh Mitchell go flying and assumed the German was responsible.

It was off course Erik Paartalu who clattered into Mitchell from behind and there’s an argument the defensive midfielder would have been lucky to stay on the pitch had Hayward correctly identified the culprit.

But Mitchell already had a yellow card by time he reacted to Broich’s heavy challenge and the Jets’ defender deserved to be sent off for his needlessly over-the-top shove.

The point is though, that the Roar lost their chief creative playmaker for the entire second half purely as the result of a refereeing mistake.

Hayward has copped the short straw here because he’s an inexperienced referee (at A-League level) who doesn’t deserve to be raked over the coals for his mistake.

But the problem for the A-League is that his error was the umpteenth crucial mistake made by a referee this season.

So poor has the overall refereeing been you’d have to think the topic will soon be addressed officially.

Watching Sydney FC’s recent home defeat to Adelaide United on television was maddening for the number of incorrect offside calls which went against the home team.

Not that the Reds weren’t disadvantaged as well, after Marcelo Carrusca had a perfectly good goal disallowed for the same reason.

The very next night referee Ben Williams sent off Melbourne Victory defender Sam Gallagher after the youngster had clearly been fouled by Wanderers striker Dino Kresinger seconds before the dismissal.

How must Gallagher have felt, having hardly featured at A-League level, to see a red card just 16 minutes into his Victory debut?

Fair enough that everyone makes mistakes but it’s happening far too consistently in the A-League to simply be ignored.

It doesn’t help that ‘assistant’ referees can seemingly only be relied upon to raise their flag only in the most obvious of circumstances.

For everything else it seems to be left to the man in the middle to make the call, no matter his position on the pitch.

I’ve said before that A-League referees are only human and becoming an official is perhaps the most thankless task in the game.

There’s also a fine line between encouraging respect for officials and opening the door on potential abuse.

Goodness knows it’s hard enough to encourage young kids to take up refereeing without fostering the idea their every move is going to be scrutinised and criticised.

But the standard of refereeing in the A-League has become a problem, particularly at a time when we’re seeing the traditional plateau of fan support in the stands.

Whatever FFA Director of Referees Ben Wilson and his team are doing, it isn’t working.

A-League referees deserve our sympathy and support, but right now their performances are simply not up to scratch.

Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and was a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008 to July 2014.
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