In an exclusive interview with SafeBettingSites, former Premier League referee Peter Walton provides his opinion on refereeing standards in the UK and also believes refs should be given the opportunity to explain their decisions after the game.
Walton also disagrees with fellow ex referee Graham Poll and that sending players off for time wasting will turn fans against the referees in the long run.
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- Graham Poll is wrong – sending players off for time wasting will turn fans against refs
- Refereeing standards in England finally on the rise following recent dip in quality
- Referees should be given the chance to explain decisions to the media after a match
Question: Graham Poll told us that he thinks a better option is to caution players who waste time and send them off if they do it again. What’s your opinion on that?
Peter Walton: “It’s a way of dealing with it for sure but my stance is that people come to see great players, great games and great tactics they don’t pay money to see people referee a game of football. That’s the way it should be. If I’m sending players from the field of play for repeatedly time wasting, yes I suppose morally you’re on the high ground but I think the spectators and the game itself would turn against referees and say ‘what are you doing this for?’ rather than allowing spectators to see an extra 10 minutes of that great player. So I think there’s a balancing act to be had and I understand Graham’s point because the law is quite specific in regards to time wasting, so had we been more assertive in past seasons we may not be where we are now. But we weren’t and we’re here now, but to dismiss players from the field of play and deny paying spectators the chance to see that player play just because of a technicality I think is a step too far and I’d prefer to see 10 or so minutes added to the end of the game instead.”
Question: You were thought of as one of the best English referees but has the reputation of our officials dwindled to now being among the worst in Europe?
Peter Walton: “It’s only after I finished refereeing that people said I was a good referee, I don’t remember hearing it while I was active! When I was refereeing from the early 2000s up to 2012 we had quite a depth of what I’d class as experienced referees and that shone through. For the big matches in those times the authorities probably had a pool of maybe eight or 10 referees they could choose from to officiate that game. Then we saw quite a change in the system where the older referees were getting older and dropping out of the and being replaced by newer referees. In that time the game itself had evolved as well. I’ll give you an example of that. Championship teams come up to the Premier League and almost all of them struggle. Why is that? Because there’s such a huge gap between the game in the Championship, which is a damn good standard nonetheless, and the quality in the Premier League. Likewise in refereeing, the learning curve for a Championship referee going up to the Premier League is a very steep one. When you’re trying to replace a squad of ageing referees with younger lads you’re going to get a dip because of the natural progression that’s required and the experience that’s lacking. I think we’ve gone through that now and we’re beginning to see a number of match officials in the Premier League gaining that experience, getting more comfortable with the situation and the game itself and also the players and managers accepting them as well because they’re a known commodity. So yes we did go through a bit of a dip but we’re beginning to see improvements and I’d like to think that we can go from strength to strength now. But like any team that’s changing their style or players there’s bound to be a learning process and the team of match officials has faced the same challenges over the past five or six years. I’m hopeful that we’ll see some world class performances and in the next World Cup we’ll see greater representations of English officials.”
Question: Should referees give interviews after games to explain their decisions?
Peter Walton: “The answer is yes. When I was the general manager of the Professional Referee Organization (that manages and administers referee assignments in Major League Soccer in the USA) we introduced what they called a ‘pool reporter’s question’ post match. So that meant a reporter from the pool of journalists could go to the referee and ask a certain question and then a supplementary question depending on the answer. What I found out was that journalists only have so much column space to write their piece in and broadcasters only have so much time to talk about the incident. So why not give them what the refereeing view is rather than them making it up themselves? So what we did was give the referees their opportunity to explain their decision. But not every referee was, not necessarily not articulate enough but perhaps comfortable enough to give their answers. So we had a support team in place to assist them should a tricky question come up, which in fact overnight cut down the rumour mill and put the referees on the front foot because we could give an explanation before the so-called experts put their view on it. I think that something of that nature should be brought into the Premier League so that journalists and reporters know straight away how a decision has been arrived at. They may not agree with the decision but ultimately the referee would have the chance to be on the front foot.”