Football: Reed alert over kicking and screening

Libero: Ian Ridley on football
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The Independent Online
"TV replays confirmed that the referee was wrong," announced Sky's Sports Centre programme the night after that penalty decision in favour of Chelsea against Leicester. The morning had seen a tabloid headline declaring Mike Reed the world's worst referee.

The day also brought more irrelevant talk about the feasibility of introducing video replays of controversial decisions. Surely before we go down that route, to retain the human element of the game, it would be better to investigate the two-referee system this column suggested last week (campaign slogan: problem shared, problem halved).

And as the FA's chief executive Graham Kelly rightly pointed out, in response to the knee-jerk solution of "eye-in-the-sky" replays, any use of new technology must be only for questions of fact - offsides, ball crossing the goal-line - rather than judgement. Cricket, not as flowing and spontaneous a game as football, does not review lbw decisions, for example.

Was Mike Reed wrong, anyway? It did appear on television that Matt Elliott pulled out of a challenge on Erland Johnsen as the Chelsea defender penetrated the Leicester penalty area but it may well be that Spencer Prior took a step into Johnsen's path to baulk him. In any event, Mr Reed was up with play and in better position, at pitch level, than anyone else, cameraman included, to decide. He was, too, in the thick of the mood, the sounds and the fury of the game. He also appeared, by and large, to keep a grip on what could have been a very unpleasant confrontation had he not been firm. "It was never a 10-booking game," some said, but the reason it was not an excessive game was precisely because Mr Reed used his cards to defuse it and avert the need for red.

At one point a dissenting player mouthed: "I went for the ball." On Sky, Andy Gray protested that one challenge was merely clumsy. It seems that the modern interpretation of the laws has eluded some players and ex-players who played in the era of no blood, no foul. The whole idea is supposed to be winning the ball, not just going through a player to reach it.

Even if Reed did handle the match badly, has he really deserved the public vilification? It may be heresy to suggest it in these days of multi-million pound flotations where the cost, rather than the sporting consequence seems to be the criterion for questioning errors, but it is supposed still to be "only" a game. Penalties have been awarded and turned down erroneously since it began and no video camera, anyway, will ever stop disgruntlement.

No Matter one's opinion of Charles Hughes, previously the FA's director of coaching and guru of direct play, many in football were surprised by the manner of his abrupt departure after 33 years of service, leaving Lancaster Gate within three days of the announcement of his retirement. Hughes himself was not best pleased.

He was later contacted by the FA to request return of the Peugeot car that came with the job - "if it won't inconvenience you". Hughes, who has always had a fondness for Rolls-Royces and privately owns one, then returned the company car, while also having his Rolls driven to Lancaster Gate. There, he handed over the Peugeot keys with the words "no, it won't inconvenience me in the least", and promptly stepped out of the building into the waiting Rolls. Would that there had been such style in the play he advocated.

Bournemouth's plight worsened this week with the Football League's refusal to sanction the forming of a new company. Yesterday might have been their last match, we were told. If so, what of the donations many made, including this column for some fond memories of Dean Court (it was nice to receive a letter of gratitude last week)? We did not give our money so that already fat banks and institutions now pulling plugs could be sated but so that the club could survive. Should it be closed, Libero will expect its money back on the grounds that it has been obtained under false pretences.

Badge of honour: Painful cost of upgrading coaches

In an attempt to standardise coaching qualifications, Fifa are introducing new licences that in Britain will supersede the FA's preliminary and full coaching badges. After 1999, any coach who wishes to be deemed fully qualified, which will by then be essential in job applications across the continent, will need the new licences.

The cost of a one-day course to upgrade from a prelim will be pounds 30; not too bad. To upgrade the full badge - the cost of a week's course at Lilleshall or Loughborough - will need pounds 300; prohibitive for many. The revenue will go to the FA who have to run the new courses.

Over the years, many full badge holders have given sterling, often underpaid service, to the FA, in running coaching courses and training up prelim badge holders. The FA say that the money people have to spend to upgrade will be offset by increased rates of pay and better opportunities. There are more than 1,000 full badge holders.

Naturally full badge holders are miffed at having to find the pounds 300 to upgrade their qualifications. Many believe it is not beyond the increasingly financially comfortable FA to fund the cost of about pounds 150,000 themselves and they may have a case. They point out that this is the approximate sum the FA spent on a gala evening at a top London hotel to mark Sir Bert Millichip's retirement as chairman.

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