Exhaustion among referees is behind an increase in officiating controversies over the hectic Christmas period, according to Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager – and difficulties in interpreting the offside law do not help.
Two red cards shown by Anthony Taylor in West Ham's 2-1 home defeat by Everton, including the one that cost them the services of scorer Carlton Cole for 23 minutes, were rescinded this week, while Sir Alex Ferguson went into touchline meltdown after Mike Dean allowed a goal scored by Newcastle against Manchester United with Papiss Cissé in an offside position.
As expected, Allardyce did not blame his pal Ferguson, but he was also sympathetic to the demands on overstretched officials. "This is a difficult period for referees," Allardyce said. "Why do they always seem to make more wrong decisions now? It's probably because they are overworked and fatigued. The system has to be looked at.
"Referees are travelling all over and have been since the start of the season. There's not enough of them. Once fatigue kicks in you lose the ability to make those decisions correctly. The Premier League and PGMOL [Professional Game Match Officials Limited] and FA should treble the budget and create an academy of referees. They need to ease the load on those we have.
"I don't see any decision that was determined by Alex's outburst or his body language. The trouble was for me that it spoilt a 4-3 thriller. A brilliant match gets overlooked because of the lack of clarity in the rules that the referee and his assistants have to work under."