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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot