Leading article: The shirt would show who's boss

THE PREMIER LEAGUE, ever mindful of its duty to improve our national game in any way that will see even more money poured into its coffers, has floated the idea that Premiership referees should bear sponsors' logos on their shirts. Those killjoys at Fifa, the sport's controlling body, have expressed dismay and advertising men have doubted whether companies will put their names to the least popular man on the football field. How lacking in vision they are! Of course, it is difficult to judge whether sales of Jaffa Cakes would rise or fall when the McVitie's referee sends off David Beckham. Who knows how fans will react when the Carling Black Label ref helps to put their team out of the cup? And which self- respecting young fan wants to associate the great smell of Brut with the referee rather than with the male-model centre-forward?

But there are lines of trade particularly suited to backing the ref. Opticians can obviously identify with a figure endlessly taunted with the words: "You want to get some new glasses, mate." Hallmark Cards might pay to support the man who brandishes yellow and red ones. Boosey & Hawkes, now the clarinet market isn't what it was, could move into whistles.There is, we are always told, no such thing as bad publicity. However, to achieve real sponsorship "synergy", the referees need to find an organisation that takes pride in being in charge; one that has a reputation for authoritarianism, nannyish attitudes and bossiness, wrapped up with a ruthless dedication to the laws of the game and a willingness to send off those who won't play by its newly modernised rules. Did someone mention the Labour Party?

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