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Would FA's respect for refs scheme work in the Premier League?

An intriguing experiment is being considered for youth football in England. The idea is that to help foster more respect toward match officials, only the team captains will be allowed to speak to the referee.

Now, I’m not exactly the biggest fan of FA chief exec Brian Barwick (pictured), but he’s the man who came up with the idea and I have to applaud him for it. Well, to be honest, he nicked the initiative from rugby, but it definitely works in that sport, so it’s worth a trial in football.

But Barwick’s brainwave goes deeper. Starting the experiment at junior football, all players and club officials will have to sign a memorandum of understanding which will lay out, in black and white, the standards of behaviour they will be expected to adhere to on and off the pitch.

"These things are done better through discussion rather than a big stick but we want to stop the situation getting out of hand," said Barwick when launching the scheme.

"There is a lot of emotion and passion in the game but you only have to look at a sport like rugby to see there seems to be a certain level of respect for the officials. That sets a marker down for our game because the treatment of referees is a really serious issue and something we have to deal with.

"In other words, there is no reason or excuse for football failing to strive for the standards which rugby regards as the norm.”

Now, I’m not a rugby expert - in fact I dislike the game with a passion - but the sport is not without its faults...

For example, some of the stuff that goes on during a rugby match would merit a straight red card in football, or a charge of common assault if it took place off the pitch. However, I’m big enough to admit when it comes to refereeing decisions, the men who play with funny shaped balls have the upper hand.

And it seems that both Arsenal’s manager and captain are backing Barwick’s idea.

In his programme notes for last Sunday’s win over Sunderland, Arsene Wenger wrote, “Last week I heard about the FA’s proposal that, at youth level first of all, only the captains will be allowed to speak to the referee. Personally I think that’s a very good idea.”

Over the page, skipper William Gallas notes, “The FA have announced plans for only the captain to be allowed to speak to the referee during games in the future. My reaction to this is: why not?”

Willie continues, “You can see that I am always quick to go to the referee anyway, but perhaps this will reduce the pressure on referees. If there are players all around him, he can produce cards quicker. So why not make it just the captain? It’s part of the job of being captain.”

And Wenger, in typical professorial style, concludes, “It’s easier for a manager as well, to control one player rather than 11. There are examples in football that other sports can learn from, but also there are examples in other sports that football can learn from. In rugby they have that rule concerning the captain, and I think it works well.”

What do you think of the plan to stop referees being harrassed? Do you think it will improve football? Or perhaps you think it might take some of the passion out of the game. Share your opinions here

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Posted by Gordon Masson on October 10, 2007 1:30 PM in Debate of the Day| News
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