May 2nd 2017
The Life Of Riley

After Newcastle beat Cardiff in a televised game on Friday night, Cardiff Manager Neil Warnock turned his attention to referee Graham Scott.

“I thought he was very poor tonight,” said Warnock. “Then I asked him who his tutor was and he said Mike Riley….it’s no wonder if Mike Riley is his tutor”.

Now, writing a blog because Neil Warnock criticises a match official is like writing a blog because night follows day, but in his press conference after the game Warnock – who is nearly as good at moaning about refs as he is at getting teams out of relegation trouble –  was warming to his theme: “We’ve probably got to start educating players on what to do when you get a referee like that.

“I thought Scotty had a bad game. Mitrovic comes on, never looks at the ball three times, just looks at Morrison, it’s a foul every time and he never sees it. Why? Because he’s not educated. It’s no wonder if Mike Riley is his tutor. It’s no wonder.”

No doubt some people will laugh at this in the way they always laugh when Warnock says silly things, and no doubt the FA might fine him and warn him about his future conduct, you know, in the same toothless way they always do – but another event this weekend proved why they have to be more decisive.

Mark Clattenburg officiated in his last game on these shores – the fixture between West Brom and Leicester – before he embarks on a new career as the Head Ref in Saudi Arabia.

We’ve written about this before and discussed how Clattenburg – probably the best ref in the world – felt like he had no support from the FA, but comments like those from Warnock don’t help.

That is not to blame Warnock for Clattenburg leaving, but rather to ask why the FA have allowed their officials to be denigrated in such a way, consistently by managers and pundits alike?

The FA loves to tell you that they have the best league in the world. They don’t. If they did there might be an English team in the Champions League semi’s this week – that there is not one in the best four teams in Europe is a damning indictment – but what they do have is the richest and one of the most keenly contested.

If it is to stay that way, then it needs the best officials. If you are a young kid making your way through the ranks, then what is your incentive? Why would you keep going through all the assessments if at the end of it, you are essentially going to be humiliated on national TV by a manager who’s team had lost?

It would be nice to think Warnock would have the grace to apologise, but has shown himself to be about as likely to show grace as he is to manage England, so instead he – and many, many other managers – will carry on playing the blame game, with the FA and the media complicit in the behaviour – the latter almost encouraging it because of a voracious appetite for controversy that exists.

The FA has shown itself to be one of the least dynamic organisations on the planet, but they could stop this. They could back their refs. They could stand up what amounts to bullying. If the refs can’t answer back then they surely could expect their own employers to do so. We can do it at Leisure Leagues, so could the boys in suits at Wembley.

If they don’t, then anyone who thinks that Clattenburg will be the last to disappear in search of new prospects, bigger pay packet and a whole lot less stress, will be sadly mistaken.

Andy Thorley

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