Referees: Only accountable to themselves

We bet you’ve watched the penalty incident at Crawley Town several times now and, like you, Ron Smith can’t believe his eyes…

If I must describe it, in the 51st minute, Crawley’s ‘keeper Jensen’s route-one clearance over the defence was perfectly timed to undo Town on the counter-attack. This left Louis Thompson chasing the ball with Izale McLeod, flanked by Nathan Byrne covering, before Thompson caught up with McLeod and launching into the tackle within the box and winning the ball. The on-rushing McLeod, stretching for the ball and running at full-pelt then tumbled at the time of the tackle. Thompson was quickly shown a straight red card by referee James Linington and the home side awarded their penalty, which Crawley scored and ended up winning 1-0.

Even watching the limited highlights on FLShow the incident wasn’t a foul, further proof from this fantastic image from photographer DJ Stotty – showing Thompson beating McLeod to the ball, who was already starting to tumble. It’s a shame such evidence cannot be used when making an appeal against the dismissal, which the club do not intend to do.

No team is likely to go through any season without some degree of dodgy refereeing and for Town, Linington’s rash decision is likely to be one of many errors this campaign. While human error is inevitable, the Crawley sending-off is difficult to stomach seeing that Town dominated possession and chances – while infrequently hitting the target – and ultimately the game was a goalless draw in the making.

The real worry is the lack of accountability from referees, who are banished into some distant place post-match, far away from journalists or supporters. Their perpetual silence on any matter, in particular their rationale for making the game-changing decisions, has and will continue to blight a game that continues to press itself for greater transparency and accountability from all others who partake in football.

Looking again at the Linington’s decision. It took 6 seconds from the tackle until the referee caught up with play, continued his jog towards Thompson and then, only 2 seconds after reaching the incident, and without looking to his linesman, brandished the red card. As Mark Cooper said post-match “you can’t make a decision from the halfway line” and you’d have to agree.

Clearly the referee’s decision is final, however without any feedback on this and any other incident it leaves us all perplexed with unanswered questions…

“Did you make the decision or did you rely upon the advice of your assistant?”

“Why didn’t the assistant referee raise his flag, or signal, as the foul was seemingly ‘committed’ in his immediate vicinity, which was clearly out of your vision?”

“If you considered it to be a foul, didn’t you consider that Nathan Byrne’s position level with McLeod ensured that any goalscoring chance wasn’t ‘obvious’?”

I could go on…

The simple question is why can’t referees talk post-match? There are no restrictions precluding this within the Laws of the Game, so why not be more open, talk to us, tell us why you decided what you did…

Learn from a referee with guts, Eddie Wolstenholme, speaking to the media after Town’s 4-1 victory over Bristol Rovers in 1995; a game in which he caused some confusion surrounding Shaun Taylor’s goal.



  • A law must come in to get red cards reversed if it is proved to be a wrong decision.


  • How does the appeal work? I suspect there are no other camera angles so would it be down the ref saying he was wrong? Isn’t going to happen.


  • There was a growing voice towards the end of last season that that mystery document “the referees report” should be published either at the end of the season or monthly. They could even be like the government and release them after 30 years. We could then wait for classics like Bremner Keegan, cantona at selhurst park, kamara Melrose or Bobby Barnes giving the ref the v sign in 87


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