The finger will soon be pointed at an umpire

'Greed and envy being perennial springboards for corruption, it's surely significant that umpires and referees are invariably the poorest men on the playing surface'

Here's a funny thing. Of all the allegations of match-fixing, which keep surfacing like the Monster from the Blue Lagoon to throttle the reputations of cricketers and footballers previously thought paragons of honesty, none have implicated the man most capable of delivering a result for dodgy bookmakers, namely the umpire or referee.

Here's a funny thing. Of all the allegations of match-fixing, which keep surfacing like the Monster from the Blue Lagoon to throttle the reputations of cricketers and footballers previously thought paragons of honesty, none have implicated the man most capable of delivering a result for dodgy bookmakers, namely the umpire or referee.

It is, I fear, only a matter of time. After all, these guys control the course of a match far more than a Hansie Cronje or Bruce Grobbelaar. And greed and envy being perennial springboards for corruption, it is surely significant that umpires and referees are invariably the poorest men on the playing surface. "Psssst! Five grand in your dressing-room locker if you send off X or give a penalty against Y. After all, Z, that git who keeps slagging you off, earns £50,000 a week and has parked his new Ferrari next to your old Cortina. It's no more than you deserve."

Suspicion of sporting officialdom is nothing new. Try prompting Tommy Smith even now on the subject of the referee who officiated decades ago in Liverpool's 3-0 defeat by Internazionale, a result which overturned a 3-1 win at Anfield. It's not a pretty sight, or sound. Of course, accusations of corruption are often unfair. I have no doubt that 99 per cent of officials are unimpeachably straight. But, mark my words, it won't be long before someone blows the whistle on a referee, or fingers an umpire.

That said, by giving Alec Stewart out lbw for England against Sri Lanka in the worst umpiring decision since I myself was given out caught behind for Southport Trinity against Standish in the South-West Lancashire League on May 19, 1980, not that I bear grudges, umpire Manuel last week offered absolute proof of his integrity. A bent umpire would never have dared be so brazenly wrong. There was clearly nothing more sinister going on than plain incompetence.

All the same, had it not been for the incompetence of the umpiring in Sri Lanka, coupled with the failure of Nasser Hussain's toss-calling, we would probably now find ourselves reflecting on one of those rare weeks containing an England cricket, football and rugby international, in the dazzling light of a creditable draw and two marvellous wins.

Unfortunately, I was not at Villa Park or Twickenham nor did I even watch the victories over Spain and Scotland live on television. On Wednesday I got home just in time to see the footie highlights on ITV, having managed, by hook, crook and eccentric loud humming in the back of a taxi, to avoid hearing the result. I poured myself a stiff drink, persuaded my wife to switch over from Sex and the City, and settled down with excitement and apprehension to watch the curtain rise on the Sven Goran Eriksson era, only for the damn fool of an announcer to chirrup "to Villa Park now on Carlton, where England's new manager makes an impressive start". I was furious. Did he know nothing of that blessed relief when you make it to highlights time still not knowing the result? Or the corresponding frustration when someone has given you a strong inkling? Had he never watched the greatest-ever episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads?, for heaven's sake?

Still, the ITV highlights provided some pleasures apart from England's performance, not least the contribution of Big Ron Atkinson (who said of Heskey's goal "he's took it beautifully" - proving himself yet again to be the finest exponent of that tense unique to football people, the deeply imperfect). On the whole, though, it is safer to videotape these things, which is how I came to watch Sky's Calcutta Cup coverage at 6.30pm on Saturday, this time with not a clue of the result. I even sat through the build-up, which included Bill Beaumont solemnly opining that it would be a very close thing indeed.

Another erstwhile England forward, Martin Bayfield, had the night before been less inclined to sit on the fence - which was perhaps as well since at 6ft 10in he is twice as high as most fences. I was fortunate enough to attend the Lord's Taverners' enjoyable eve-of-Calcutta Cup dinner at the London Hilton, at which Bayfield and former Scotland star John Beattie were guest speakers. Both were wonderfully fluent and funny, and laced their speeches with just the right amount of vulgarity - lots. Beattie told us that the Scottish Rugby Union, looking to strengthen the national team with even more southern hemisphere talent, has initiated a breeding programme, billeting 1,000 Polynesian girls at Edinburgh University halls of residence and inviting Scottish males aged between 16 and 65 to apply for the necessary task. He applied and was told to get himself to Carlisle. "But I thought they were in Edinburgh," he said. "Aye," said the man from the SRU, "but Carlisle is where the queue starts."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?