EXCLUSIVE! From Fergie to the future of refereeing, football.co.uk brings you an exclusive interview with controversial former Premier League referee Jeff Winter.
How would you assess the current state of refereeing in the Premier League?
There are no problems with the quality of the best guys, but there is a problem with the quantity. The authorities failed to plan ahead when they should have known many of the most experienced guys were due to retire. It takes time for the new referees to acclimatise and gain the experience and confidence to be trusted with the biggest games. Most problems with referees are down to the poor management of their bosses.
Who do you think is the best referee in the country at the present moment?
Howard Webb is our number one but I also think Mike Dean is performing consistently well.
Is Howard Webb the right choice to represent England's officials at the World Cup?
Yes, he is our best referee. Being number one he gets most of the big games and any mistakes he makes are highlighted. Like any referee he is far from perfect but he does the big games very well.
Do you think the FA's Respect campaign has had any effects on English football?
It has helped grass roots football, but the senior game has seen few benefits.The FA need to make examples of bad behaviour by senior players and managers. Unfortunately they appear scared of the biggest clubs. Many grass roots players copy the antics of the players that they watch on TV. Likewise parents rant and rave and criticise officials having watched Fergie and co get away with the same on Match of the Day. For the respect campaign to work the authorities need to support their officials then they might take a hard line with offenders. That example would cascade down through the game and then the Respect campaign would have more chance of success.
Do players get away with foul language towards officials too easily?
The simple answer is yes. TV does not always reflect accurately what the referee can hear or see. They pan in on the player who is swearing but the referee may well have moved away. On occassions when the referee can clearly hear what is being said they seem to turn a deaf ear. The bottom line is that if a referee sends a player off for bad language it upsets the clubs and if a referee has conflict with a club then he will not be appointed to their games. So sending off a Rooney or a Terry would stop the official from refereeing the top games. If the authorities were stronger and backed their officials rather than bowing to the clubs, then perhaps referees would be stronger.
What did you think of FIFA's recent decision to dismiss the idea of using technology in football?
I was amazed but not really surprised. Blatter and Platini appear to be loose cannons, who seem to do what they want. Other than England and Scotland, all other member countries, including Wales, voted against goal-line technolgy being investigated more. So that is it!
Do you think referees want technology introduced into the sport?
They would welcome goal line technology, but most like myself feel that any other form of technology that would constantly stop the game would be detrimental to the game.
Do you believe technology will be introduced at some point in the future?
It does not appear so and FIFA definitely will not use video referees. I think extra goal-line officials will be introduced and I agree with this.
Do you think referees should apologise for their mistakes?
I do not have a problem with a referee admitting he has made a mistake post-match after seeing the incident again in slow-motion TV replays. But why is the onus just on referees? Should managers own up to their poor team selection or tactics they use? Should players own up to their errors? The game is riddled with human errors, the majority not made by officials. There are too many experts who have become great referees with the benefit of hindsight.
Did you ever regret a decision you made while refereeing?
You make mistakes by calling decisions incorrectly, but when it's gone it's gone. You have to try and learn from your mistakes.
Who was the most intimidating manager you ever had to deal with?
I would never call any of them intimidating.They rant and rave but what are they going to do to you?Stick and stones! Quite often they looked and sounded foolish as they went off on one.Lawrie Sanchez was a nasty piece of work who could probably have backed the verbals up physically as well. Big Sam looked like he could mix it as well.As for Fergie? Do me a favour, he is an old man who should think of his heart rate rather than ranting and raving like a lunatic!
Who was the most intimidating player you ever had to deal with?
Again the problems are at grass roots level where referees get assaulted. My size tended to limit the number of players who had a real go at me! At professional level it's just words in the eat of the moment, so again it was not something that ever concerned me.
What are your opinions on the Steven Gerrard-Michael Brown incident from Monday night? Was the FA right to let Gerrard off?
No they were not. The FA have once again hid behind their rules, which totally lack credibility. The referee says he saw it but clearly did not or chose not to see the extent of Gerrard's assualt. It was no different to Rio Ferdinand's off-the-ball elbowing offence. It makes a mockery of the game when the FA act like this. It plays into the hands of fans who believe that certain clubs receive favourable treatment. The main reason I am not involved with the FA anymore is that I cannot condone the way that they run the game.
If you were in charge of FIFA, what changes would you bring to the game in terms of refereeing?
Goal-line technology, sin bins, independant time-keeping and ten-yard advancement for free-kicks if a player uses issent.
What is the future of refereeing?
Well without a referee you have no game so they are here to stay. In the Premier League,Mike Riley will ensure that management of officials is better but as ultimately the clubs run football unfortunately I do not see many other changes.
Jeff Winter is one of the countries most sought after speakers, featuring regularly at sporting and charity events. To book Jeff, order a copy of his popular autobiography "Who's the Bastard in the Black" or to read his columns, log onto www.jeffwinter.co.uk.
Jeff also writes a weekly blog for www.football-previews.co.uk