PFA calls for dope tests on referees

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The Independent Online
ENGLISH football's players' union is calling upon referees to be subjected to the same drugs and alcohol testing as players have to undergo. The Professional Footballers' Association says that as officials are so influential in a game, they should also be expected to be clean and sober themselves.

In a move agreed with the Football Association before the Arsenal captain Tony Adams's admission of alcoholism earlier this month, the PFA has accepted the addition of breathalysers to the drug tests its members take, voluntarily since 1978 and compulsorily for the past three years. Next year 170 visits are expected to be made to training grounds and stadiums to conduct some 500 tests.

"It happens in horse racing, where officials and starters are tested along with jockeys," said the PFA's chief executive, Gordon Taylor. "We saw no reason why referees should not be tested, as they are as much a part of the process of a game as the players."

Taylor has already discussed the idea with the FA. "There are a number of people there who are sympathetic, I believe, but I understand the referees are reluctant. We have been looking at the diet and training of footballers; and, bearing in mind that we have been co-operating with the FA on the questions of drugs and alcohol, we thought the refs should also participate."

So far the FA has not put the idea to the referees and linesmen - now officially known as assistant referees. "The suggestion is that referees should be tested because they might be under the influence of something and the impact they have on a game is immense," said the FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly. "But after thinking about it for some time, we thought it was not appropriate. There are no FIFA [the game's governing body] rules on drug testing for officials."

The secretary of the Association of Premier League and Football League Match Officials, Philip Waters, laughed at the suggestion. "This is the first time I have heard this. Some would say that we are dopes anyway, and they have been to games where the referee's judgment must have been impaired by something.

"More seriously, if asked I would put it to my council and if they felt it was beneficial to the game, I'm sure we would comply. Some of our members might take issue because although there is a route back into the game for players who have strayed, a referee may never be allowed to officiate again. We are a bit like policemen: the FA may be sympathetic to players but are unlikely to be to us.

"But I have to say I have never come across problems with drugs or alcohol at the top level of refereeing and I would be surprised if there was a problem. So, saying that, there should be no harm in taking the tests and I am sure we would not rule it out."

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