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Jon Wilkin Column: Open mic would solve football's difficulties
11:25am Thursday 8th November 2012 in Latest News
EVERY game needs officials and I often marvel at the people who put themselves into one of the most uncomfortable positions on a sports field.
Referees must have the most scrutinised role in any sports game and they at best can only be pleasing 50 per cent of the people at the game, the reality is its often a much smaller percentage than that as a relative distaste towards officials is felt by the neutrals.
In rugby league the attitude towards officials from the players is one of respect but also one built on a vapour.
The best officials have banter with the players, engage in a small amount of debate but ultimately you know they will never change their mind.
We can swear at the match officials, which seems ridiculous to even consider but football has an endemic problem with surrounding the referee and using language of a more spicy nature.
There is one very simple solution to this - make the referees microphone open so that it can be picked up by the media.
On a TV game I know from experience the conversations become more formal and dissent is almost non existent.
If the ref’s mic was open in football players would be cited for the language used and could be punished retrospectively.
Also the referees are held to account over what they say also.
The current issues with players claiming one thing , the officials saying something else, could easily be solved in the top flight games.
Lets be honest, the levels of interest are amplified at the top level of any sport and football isn't hampered by resources like rugby league is.
One player who is very wise at the way he asks referees to consider whether their decision was the correct one is Paul Wellens.
His animated ‘Tea Pot’ style hand gestures fluctuate from ‘confused’ arms outstretched to ‘disappointed’ hands on hips.
They always crack me up and I would go as far to say nobody has conducted more in goal disputes than our skipper Wello.
I always enjoyed playing when Karl Kirkpatrick was refereeing although I imagine the use of open microphones was detrimental to his career.
I think all sports officials realise that in the heat of the moment things are said probably in both directions that are not meant, but any emotion shown is usually just an indication that people care very much about the outcome of the game they are playing in or the decisions they have made.
The one criticism I do have of officials in our game is that due to resources we don't have enough of them at the moment, which was highlighted by Phil Bentham’s injury.
The game needs to improve the pool from which referees are selected as that only leads to healthy competition for the big games in the season and just being one ref down made things very tight.
I do look at other sports and consider what works in our sport as compared to others. One thing that rugby league has got right is the implementation of the video referee into the theatre of a match day.
I feel the video decisions add genuine value to the TV games, waiting for the decision as a player is tense and I know the fans feel the same as everyone tentatively focuses on the screen.
Other sports such as cricket and rugby union have embraced the technology but football remains resilient to it use.
Being innovative is great and I think RL has led the way in many respects from that front.
What you have to admire about football though is the game you see around the world played by superstars is almost identical to the game you see at a park on a saturday.
Sometimes we forget about the distance we are putting between the professional game and our amateurs in terms of rule changes and creating an unreachable gap in the hearts and minds of the game’s real stars - the people who play, support and love the amateur game.
I think people like our game the way it is, chopping and changing the rules for the sake of innovation cannot be the way forward.
I think pick a set of rules that’s entertaining not of a dictated speed and just stick with them.
If people who watch our game as neutrals aren't entertained are they more likely to be so if we take the corner flags out of play or if we let the ball bounce out of the field before its dead?
Be confident in the product we have and understand what our offering is to the punters, our unique features are speed, brutality, humanity, resilience, strength and community.
Stick with it for a number of seasons and market the game based on these and we won’t go far wrong.
Ticket sales for the Typhoo Legends v The Ginetta Allstars (football) at Langtree Park have started to come through. Confirmed players for the Legends: Mark Wright (C), Mickey Thomas, Michael Ball, Sammy Mcllroy, Francis Jeffers and Lee Martin.
For the Allstars: Alan Halsall, Michael Gray, Kelvin Fletcher, Ralph Little, Will Mellor.
Both teams will be punctuated by Saints Players, past and present, including: Sean Long, Paul Sculthorpe, myself, Wello, Paul ‘the Cat’ Loughlin and many more from the current squad getting a run around.
A family ticket for one adult and one child is only £10.
Concessions and extra children are £5.
Hospitality is priced at just £25 per head for Sunday roast, best seats in the house and access to the lounge to mix with players before and after the game. simply call 01744 455 052 to purchase tickets. Hope to see you all there. .