Football: Referees fight back

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MANAGERS WERE yesterday told to stop using officials to cover their inadequacies and concentrate on their own game.

Peter Willis, the former FA Cup final referee and now spokesman for the Referees' Association, is becoming increasingly tired of the tendency to blame officials when results go against managers' clubs.

Wimbledon's Joe Kinnear was the latest manager to criticise them, slating the referee's assistant Peter Walton as being "too thick to become a referee". Kinnear's outburst came after Walton ruled out a goal from Marcus Gayle against Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Willis feels Kinnear would be better advised to look elsewhere for a scapegoat. "There is a simple answer to all this," Willis said. "The coaches and managers should get their teams to play within the rules."

John Barnwell, head of the League Managers' Association, claimed the comments had been blown out of all proportion. "If Joe has overstepped the mark I'm sure the FA will deal with it," he said, "but referees must realise they are in a high-profile, high-pressure situation. Their mistakes are bound to be highlighted and it is something they are going to have to accept."