Should SPL Referees Now Be Professional?
There are apparently genuine fears that the start of the SPL season could be delayed due to a dispute over money being paid to referees.
The SFA are meeting with the referees' committee today in an attempt to come to an agreement that will prevent the men in black going on strike this weekend, when the SPL season is due
to kick off. It's difficult to see a compromise not being reached when we consider just how much pain a delay to the season would cause so many different entities (the TV companies being the most obvious of those), but quite frankly I really hope that they don't, and that the whole issue of refereeing in this country goes right out there for examination.
In recent seasons referees seem to have come in for much more criticism than they ever did years ago. To be honest this is probably as much to do with the intense media coverage that today's game gets in comparison to yesteryear rather than the standard of refereeing being alarmingly worse than it was, although there is definitely an argument for the latter, something which admittedly hasn't been aided by some of the rule changes imposed by FIFA in recent years.
To many people, the very suggestion that the refs now want to be paid considerably more than they were per game (the figure being talked about is as much as £1,000 per game depending upon which stories you believe, an increase of at least 40%) when their performances have been questionable at best in recent times is almost laughable, but I don't necessarily see it that way. Kenny Clark, one of the more senior referees in the Scottish game, gave these comments to the BBC when asked about his argument for the increase:
'There are not any referees who will suggest they should get paid anything like what the players get.
'This is about giving some acknowledgment to the pressures they are under, and their families are under when it comes to media scrutiny.
'We are being asked to be professional, even though were amateur, in the way we conduct ourselves and we just want an increase in fees. In Greece, Norway and Holland they're getting paid more.'
While I don't think it matters how much their equivalents in other countries get paid as Clark cites here, he does make a fair point that referees have very responsible positions when it comes to the outcome of football matches. These guys regularly make decisions that can cost people millions of pounds, and the repercussions for getting things wrong could potentially be grave is certain people got their way. So I don't have a problem with people under such pressure wanting to be suitably compensated financially for this burden.
What I DO have a problem with though, is the fact that they'll probably end up getting this extra money but continue to be relatively unaccountable for mistakes that they make. Surely now if the SFA are going to start paying these guys what they think they're worth, which over the period of a season will net many of them pretty close to a decent annual salary in its own right on top of their 'day' jobs, then the whole issue of making referees into professionals in this country has to be looked at? This way, there could surely be no excuses when it came to unacceptable performances like the one that Mike McCurry turned in at Ibrox towards the end of last season - if they were professional then they would have to admit their mistakes and be punished accordingly for it. Simple. No?
Well.....no. The big problem that we have here is who the referees report to isn't it? Their bosses are shrouded in more controversy than the men in black themselves, so why should we stop at simply overhauling the whole strategy on refereeing in this country? Let's re-structure the SFA as well while we're at it! Or, at the very least open them up to some sort of positive change, one that would allow others to understand exactly why they came to certain decisions or recommendations.
Not that I expect this to happen of course.......it's more likely that anyone campaigning for this to happen will be fined for daring to 'question the integrity' of their closed shop operation, without realising once again that their continued silence on anything remotely controversial makes them appear even more corrupt that many already think that they are.
It certainly will be interesting to see what happens if no agreement can be reached at Hampden today though. At the very least some good will surely come out of it - for a start it will give Hearts a wee bit more time to try and get a few signings in to boost their chances of beating Motherwell!