Former pros more likely to get respect

PUBLISHED: 18:21 14 February 2009 | UPDATED: 16:04 10 September 2010

Matt Juler, Capital Canaries

Back in July, before the start of the 2008/9 season, the Football Association launched their Respect programme. The initiative targets all levels of football from grass roots to full Internationals.

Back in July, before the start of the 2008/9 season, the Football Association launched their Respect programme. The initiative targets all levels of football from grass roots to full Internationals. In the professional game, the directive is to curtail the abuse aimed at match officials by players, managers, backroom staff and supporters alike.

As a whole the level of respect within the game appears to be rising. Managers now meet with the referee and his assistants prior to the match and the team captains are encouraged to make dialogue with the officials during the course of the game, all aimed at improving these often fractious relationships.

Whilst things are improving on the pitch, amongst the supporters on the terraces the Respect programme seems to have had little impact. On numerous occasions during the recent Bristol City match at Carrow Road chants aimed directly at the referee could be heard. According to the FA we should all respect the officials and their decisions, but when so many clear cut decisions go against your team, it's no wonder the amount of respect is minimal.

So how can the FA improve this level of respect? Many in the game, including Bryan Gunn in his weekly Evening News column, are calling for videotechnology, but football is such an end to end sport I don't believe rugby style calls to an official in front on the TV would work. Automatic goal line technology has potential, but use elsewhere on the pitch would just disrupt the flow (and we'd struggle to catch the 10pm train back to London after a midweek fixture). Retrospective use of video technology definitely has a place in the game as demonstrated this week with the upholding of the Doherty appeal, but that does little to improve the respect towards the officials on the pitch.

The other suggestion regularly touted and currently being trialled by Fifa is an increase in the number of officials that take charge of a match, either as referees or assistants, however I feel this will have little impact and just cause further inconsistencies and frustration amongst supporters.

The only way forward in my opinion is for the FA to introduce a new breed of referee, and that is one that has played the game at a professional level.

I'm not suggesting that the likes of Alan Shearer and Dion Dublin should become referees, but there are so many footballers who don't quite make the grade after a couple of seasons as a pro who disappear into non-league football and end up making a career as a handyman painter and decorator. These ex-professionals could offer so much more to the professional game, but only if the FA are to act.

To reach the Football League list as a referee currently takes many years, but if the FA could introduce a fast-track system for those that have played the game, and offer a decent salary, I believe the quality of refereeing would increase dramatically, and finally a level of respect would be reached between supporters and officials.

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