We need to talk about A-League refereeing

Mike Tuckerman Columnist

By Mike Tuckerman, Mike Tuckerman is a Roar Expert

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    Does football need to bring in a post-match referral system for blatant referee errors? 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
    Mike Tuckerman

    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 has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (44)

    • December 3rd 2012 @ 7:06am
      Kasey said | December 3rd 2012 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Mods please move to the Matt Breeze sub board…it is not surprising that 442 have him in so many of the top 10 worst calls in HAL history. Reds fans will never forgive him for his B/S calls against our club.
      I quote:
      ” 8: Breeze blows in Grand Final
      It takes a brave man to ruin an A-League grand final. That man is Matthew Breeze who had no doubts when he flashed a red to Red Cristiano in the 2009 Grand Final against Melbourne Victory. The Brazilian was deemed to have lead with an elbow on Rody Vargas. That was 11 minutes in to the big day. United were never going to recover from that and held out bravely before losing 1-0. “

      • Roar Guru

        December 3rd 2012 @ 2:29pm
        Griffo said | December 3rd 2012 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

        Yes, one of the poorest decisions affecting a game as I have ever seen…

    • December 3rd 2012 @ 7:21am
      MV Dave said | December 3rd 2012 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      Yep there have been a number of poor decisions made by the officials…almost as many as some very poor decision making by players costing goals in various games. Go onto the fan forums on the EPL and read how bad their refs are, or the MLS where the ‘worst refs in the world’ officiate, no doubt if l could read Spanish or German or Portugese or French and went onto their fan forums l would find they have the worst Refs in the world.
      Competitions that have video reviews still have mistakes in Officiating eg Cricket, NRL, NFL.
      I would suggest the officiating is not better or worse than pre HAL but each decision certainly receives plenty of scrutiny. It hurts when it goes against your team but there will be dubious decisions that go your way later in the season…guess that’s what happens when you put humans in charge!

      • December 3rd 2012 @ 8:16am
        Kasey said | December 3rd 2012 @ 8:16am | ! Report

        I can’t believe I’m going to agree with a MBV fan, in this week of all weeks, but pretty much without fail every football fan thinks their league has the worst referees, just as almost every city thinks they have the rudest most inconsiderate drivers.

        That being said, that moron AR who ran the line in the SFC v AUFC game last week ‘was’ dropped for poor performance…what else can the FFA do?
        Full time professional refs?
        Possibly now that we have a bit more coin in the war chest. But has it been proven that full time refs produce more consistently good officiating? It’s a significant cost burden to maintain. However if it were introduced in Australia along with GoalRef (GLT) I think the majority of football fans wouldn’t begrudge the FFA splashing the cash in that direction.

        • December 3rd 2012 @ 1:10pm
          fadida said | December 3rd 2012 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

          I not sure whether being full-time as a ref /lino changes much. If you can’t judge a player offside how does more training change that. Can you improve vision? Would the ref in the Roar game make a better decision in the Broich case if it was all he did? More games might give him the experience to make a better judgement.He thought he saw what he saw. The yellow he gave to Neville for time wasting 15 minutes in shows he is card happy. He could train 10 hours a day and it wouldn’t change his personality or decision making here. I don’t need to have been a referee to know that was a ridiculous decision.

          • December 3rd 2012 @ 1:17pm
            Nathan of Perth said | December 3rd 2012 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

            PS, Delaying the Restart of Play is the offence, not time-wasting. The cautions are given to force players to keep things moving – can’t be free kicks because in 95% of these circumstances the ball is out of play.

            • December 3rd 2012 @ 1:47pm
              fadida said | December 3rd 2012 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

              I understand that, but that was never worth a yellow card, particularly that early in the game. Common sense should have been applied. Warn the player to hurry up and that next time you’ll have to book him. That referee’s lack of “feel” for the game is my concern.

            • Roar Guru

              December 3rd 2012 @ 2:33pm
              Griffo said | December 3rd 2012 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

              As the commentators said, too early in the game to be playing for a nil-all draw…

              …more like couldn’t find a player to give the ball to.

              You don’t want to be encouraging players to just fling the ball in any old where to avoid a card 😛

              • December 3rd 2012 @ 2:37pm
                Nathan of Perth said | December 3rd 2012 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

                On the other hand, you don’t want to let people wait forever for the perfect delivery because their team mates aren’t making good runs for them 🙂

          • Roar Guru

            December 3rd 2012 @ 3:05pm
            Griffo said | December 3rd 2012 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

            I’ve wondered if HAL refs sit down and are taken through their matches as part of some post match analysis/reflection/improvement methodology.

            Would it be worthwhile watching snippets of matches and interpreting the play, then comparing their decion with the actual one made? While being part-time refs it is a fairly elite level for a job so similarly some improvement strategy that isn’t as seasonal as a one or two week course in pre-season would be required?.

            The refs are probably the aspect of the sport that has little insight into with the public, partly as protection but perhaps not seen as something worthy of viewing for the fan, but I’ve thought that an exposé in the week of a ref’s life by FoxSports or SBS would be interesting (similar to Vitor Sobral’s TWG piece as a ‘guest’ player with Gold Coast United a couple of seasons back).

            Perhaps too much scrutiny from clubs to allow that aspect of the game to open up to general view.

            • December 3rd 2012 @ 3:10pm
              Nathan of Perth said | December 3rd 2012 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

              “I’ve wondered if HAL refs sit down and are taken through their matches as part of some post match analysis/reflection/improvement methodology.”

              Yes, they are always run through each match with an official Referee Assessor (who is a retired referee who has performed at a national (and in some cases international) level) and are given a grading, a list of incorrect decisions, a list of things to think about and suggestions on how incidents during the game could have been addressed in other ways.

    • December 3rd 2012 @ 8:31am
      TC said | December 3rd 2012 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Part of the joy of being a soccer fan is to argue about refs.

      They, and their linesmen in particular, are universally incompetent or worse.

      In our case, let us all be thankful that they are merely incompetent.

      The thing is that in soccer, refs determine the outcomes of games with one or two decisions.

      When the only score of the game is a penalty – you better hope that decision was absolutely rock solid because at that precise moment, the ref is determining the scoreline for the match.

      But the whole world has put up with incompetent refs forever, so maybe it’s no big deal.

      Personally, I believe the biggest threat to the A-League currently is global warming.

      I heard on the radio only this morning that a new report commissioned by the Greens states that average temperatures will increase by six degrees by the end of the century, which spells disaster for sports played in Summer.

      The FFA needs to form a coalition with the Greens, now.

      If they can save the world, then maybe the A-League can be saved as well.


      • December 3rd 2012 @ 10:27am
        nordster said | December 3rd 2012 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        That one decision aspect is a fair point…which is why in football we value the league premiership as it does tend to balance out over a a season…and why cup finals will always be a nice party but secondary to the ups and downs of 27 or 30 odd games.

        And good to see you’re becoming a proponent of more of a year round aleague season TC 😉 football is not a summer sport, not exclusively anyway…occupies most fans year round…an all consuming beast it is…though not of cricket ovals, u can keep those 😉

      • December 3rd 2012 @ 11:14am
        whiskeymac said | December 3rd 2012 @ 11:14am | ! Report

        The greens and a NASA report outline the issues with dramatic climatic change. The HAL needs to establish a foothold in Tassie now – the rest of the continent will be a dustbowl by 2100.

        • December 3rd 2012 @ 11:59am
          TC said | December 3rd 2012 @ 11:59am | ! Report


          That’s what’s great about the Roar – the ability to get some ideas out there, and I like this idea about re-establishing the league in Tassie.

          Instead of oranges at half-time, it would be apples.


          • December 3rd 2012 @ 3:52pm
            jmac said | December 3rd 2012 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

            I know – air conditioned stadiums!

    • December 3rd 2012 @ 8:35am
      brisvegas said | December 3rd 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      “… he saw Newcastle defender Josh Mitchell go flying and assumed the German was responsible.” This is the crux of the matter – the officials seem to make decisions based on their assumptions, not what they actually see. If a player goes down and you didn’t see it clearly, surely you can’t make a decision. Similarly, if you are running the line and aren’t in a position to see the ball go out, you can’t make a decision. It’s ridiculous to assume something has happened. Well, maybe not ridiculous, but certainly maddening, and not what officiating a game is about.

      All I ask is that officials make decisions based on what they see. If it is subsequently shown by slo mo replays that they got it wrong then so be it, but please don’t make decisions on assumptions or probability,.

      And if referee decisions iron themselves out over time, then I think Man U are going to go through about 50 years of hard times sometime in the future.

      • December 4th 2012 @ 2:44am
        Neil said | December 4th 2012 @ 2:44am | ! Report

        This is the crux of the matter, referees should only adjudicate what they or their assistants see, get in a good position and remain calm. Referees should not allow players in their faces when they make decisions, most players are doing it to delay the free kick, run away from players and signal a restart, this should stop “all ins” and keep the game flowing. Caution a player early in the game for this and the others will take note.
        Ben Williams please stop these lectures at corner kicks etc. , just adjudicate, lecturing players is a waste of time, avoid banter with players.

    • December 3rd 2012 @ 9:01am
      gawa said | December 3rd 2012 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      The ref guessed on Saturday night, he saw Mitchell fall over and figured by his ridiculous overreaction that Broich had actually fouled him in someway. Mitchell was still in a bad mental place after giving away a penalty a short while previously.
      Equally as bad a decision was made or avoided in the Sydney – Heart game yesterday. Fabio’s awful foul on the calf of the Heart player Gareccia?? who had to leave the pitch. One of the most violent tackles I’ve seen in years yet nothing from the ref.
      This match review panel needs to overturn the Broich red and give a retrospective red to Fabio.

      • December 3rd 2012 @ 9:50am
        brisvegas said | December 3rd 2012 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        Tackles are one of those things that happen very quickly and unless you have replays to see what actually happened it is easy to miss in real time. I wouldn’t consider this to be a bad decision, at least not in the same sense that the Broich red card was a bad decision. Sure, it was something that was missed, but many of those happen in a game. It’s at times like this that you say refs are only human.

        However, in the sense that they sometimes see malicious intent in the most inoccuous of challenges, not reacting appropriately to tackles like the one you mention is infuriating. Consistency is what we want.

        Hand ball is another area of inconsistency. WSW had a stonewall penalty decision turned down as far as I am concerned. Even in real time, me sitting in my lounge room, I appealed, and was stunned when it wasn’t given.

    • December 3rd 2012 @ 9:24am
      Titus said | December 3rd 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      As with the standard of play and the standard of fan in the a-league, the reffereeing is still at an immature standard but will improve as the game here grows. These are all frustrating mistakes but mistakes that we can learn from.

      I think a call like the Broich/Mitchell one, the ref needs to refrain from making the big, dramatic and game changing call for an incident he obviously didn’t see. He should have had a word to both players, put it on report and got on with the game.

      Hopefully the refferees begin to get better training and better pay, as there is an enormous amount of pressure on them.

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