FA must get tough to earn respect
The Football Association's new chief executive Ian Watmore must be biting his knuckles in frustration at Wembley as Messrs Ferguson and Allardyce made absolute twaddle of the 'Respect' campaign over the weekend. Last season the campaign appeared to be working, with only team captains allowed to talk to referees. It was aimed at cutting out the ugly spectacle of startled officials being surrounded by an angry mob of players all pointing, gesticulating and spitting out obscenities at him. While that part of the campaign still continues to work, this weekend's top-flight matches brought the spotlight back on to the managers and their respect, or rather clear lack of it, for the beleaguered referee. Watmore, who moved into his post in June, is already on record as saying the relationship between managers and referees needs to be improved. But the FA's efforts appear to be falling on deaf ears this season. "When you talk to managers in private away from the heat of battle they want to help," Watmore said earlier this season. But what managers appear to be saying to the FA in cosy meetings is a world away from their behaviour at Old Trafford or the Emirates Stadium. The FA ordered managers not to talk about referees prior to games this season, but it has not stopped them insulting officials afterwards. The FA will review Sir Alex Ferguson's criticism of Alan Wiley after their 2-2 draw with Sunderland on Saturday - and quite right too. Ferguson is a leading figure in the game and a very successful manager to boot - but that does not give him the right to rubbish the fitness of a referee. The FA have a choice - they could throw the book at him or face their campaign completely losing credibility. Similarly, the FA will also look at Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce's comments about Peter Walton after Sunday's loss to Arsenal. The 54-year-old hit out after his side's 6-2 defeat at The Emirates, during which the official failed to give a penalty for Thomas Vermaelen's apparent trip on David Dunn when the score was 3-2. He said: "It was a blatant penalty. In the pressure pot of this league, you have to get major decisions right. If they (the officials) are not good enough, we should find someone who is. "I try not to say too much publicly and say it through the system but unfortunately the system is not working so I have to be heard. People may say it is bitter or twisted, but I know I am 100% right because I am very professional in what I do." Does he seriously think referees are not? Ferguson also spent time jabbing his finger at fourth official Mike Dean before pointing angrily to the pitch when he felt Anderson had been denied a penalty. What kind of message is that behaviour sending out to those referees, coaches and young players at grass-roots level? "When you act in a manner that brings the game into disrepute, that is a lack of respect," said Watmore earlier last month. Watmore insisted that before the campaign the FA were in danger of losing referees at the lower end of the game and that there were 500 assaults a season on officials by players or fans. Clearly the example from the top of the game needs to be a good one. Watmore is correct when he says the relationship between the players and officials has improved but sadly the respect from managers towards referees appears to be at an all-time low. It is not just down to the FA though. The League Managers Association have a duty to get their members to clean up their act. They cannot allow such total lack of respect to go on unchecked or that organisation too will soon lose the admiration of people in the game. The behaviour of managers towards referees should be addressed by the FA immediately and not just with a slap on the wrist. Fine them, fine them hard, fine them again and if they still persist with their rants at refs, then make them sit in the stands for weeks, months even. "The Respect campaign is levelled at the whole game," added Watmore. "You can't expect the kids on Sunday morning to behave if the stars aren't." And that should include managers too, Ian.
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