James Corrigan: Why can't refs explain decisions afterwards?

He got it wrong. It happens. I was sure I saw Madonna down my street. It wasn’t her. She was in New York

Football referees are accorded the same respect as speed cameras. Not just by the fans, but by the authorities, too. The Professional Game Match Officials Board (or to use its snappy acronym, PGMOB) install them, check them on a weekly basis and, if they're not working, update them or dump them, or consign them to a country road in Northumberland or a League Two match in Rotherham. Like the speed camera, the referee lives and dies on his split-second verdict. The whistle is blown, the shutter slams, with three points being the usual cost. That's it, then. It's in the hands of the assessors.

There is a rumour going around that referees are human beings. Unlike a yellow box perched high on an aluminium pole, they could explain their decisions. They could do, but they're not allowed. Here we are in this free society, where grown men and women are told not to say anything in public, write anything, tweet even, probably not even give so much as a thumbs up or down to the next door neighbour. Instead, a report is sent to HQ which keeps its contents secret. Harry from Spooks would find the process unnecessarily guarded.

Why not let them explain their decisions to the public? Who would suffer? Take Saturday and Phil Dowd's plain weird dismissal of Chris Herd at Villa Park. Initially, the pundits couldn't work out the reason. Indeed, on Final Score, Martin Keown looked and sounded like one of the poor dolts on Beadle's About who had just discovered his Mondeo had been painted bright pink.

What we, and our cherished experts, required was some sort of guidance. But we knew we would have to wait until Match of the Day. And even then this would be a guessing game. "He was sent off for a stamp," said the West Bromwich manager, Roy Hogdson, with all the certainty of a manager who has just been gifted a 2-1 win. Thanks for that. But the replays showed no stamp. How did Hodgson know? Perhaps Dowd had informed him that Herd was smuggling a counterfeit Penny Black in his shorts.

Wouldn't it have been ever so slightly less farcical if Sky Sports, the BBC or whoever were granted access to Dowd to ask him a few questions? Dowd could have then explained himself. He wouldn't have needed to justify his call, or say sorry or admit any contrition whatsoever. Just to say, "I sent him off because I [or his assistants] saw him stamp on Jonas Olsson". Bang, we would know. We might disagree, might refer to him as a myopic whatsit, but we would have to respect that he acted on what he perceived to be a fact. He just got it wrong. Big deal. It happens. The other day I was sure I saw Madonna walking down my street in Cardiff. It wasn't her. She was in New York.

Instead, the bemusement continues, meaning Dowd becomes yet more derided – if that is in anyway possible – and the ever burgeoning anti-referee league signs up a few more converts. Nobody wins. It is a lose-lose situation.

But no, insist PGMOB, the men in black shall remain on mute. "It would only benefit the 24-hour news media and not the referee's decision-making process," said their spokesman. "It's important to remember that referees are not professional media operators."

We're not asking them to be Steve Rider – Alan Shearer would do. They merely have to stand there and say why they did this and didn't do that. Neither would they be required to attend a formal press conference; only to speak to a nice chap with a microphone in their very own dressing room. And yes, they would then be benefiting the 24-hour news media, but guess who watches 24-hour news? Yep, the fans, the reason why it is possible to earn a living blowing a whistle.

It is feasible for sport to be entertainment as well and to fulfil all the responsibilities to enrich the entertainment without endangering the sanctity of the sport. The fear is the refs would become central characters in the soap opera. Too late – they already are. Dowd would have been the word on the majority of the lips sipping after-match beverages in West Bromwich and Aston on Saturday evening. The rules against talking actually dehumanise him and his colleagues and so make it easier to substitute a noun for his surname and perhaps an adverb for his Christian name.

Why not copy Germany? As far as I'm aware the Bundesliga doesn't have the problem of their referees being out-of-control celebrity junkies. After each weekend over there, a panel reviews and, most pertinently, publishes each key decision, whether it was given or not, and grades them as right, wrong or uncertain. Furthermore, German officials may also talk to the media after games.

So if Dowd had, say, sent off Franck Ribéry in a Bavarian derby, the Teutonic equivalent of Geoff Shreeves could have said "Phil, what were you thinking?". Dowd could have replied, "Geoff, what can I say, I saw him stamp an opponent", and everybody could have gone down the Berkeley happy in the knowledge he had made a bit of an arschloch of himself. Sounds preferable to our charade.

News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
Review: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
people
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices