Belfast Telegraph

Under-fire Smyth good enough for Europe but not Irish League duty

By Staff Reporter

The Northern Ireland Football League has stood down one of its top referees. However there are some concerns their move may have contravened Uefa rules regarding officials.

Referee Mervyn Smyth will not be considered for senior appointments for two weeks after a critical Referee Observer's report following the Glenavon-Linfield clash on Saturday.

But in another twist to the story last night, it emerged that Smyth will officiate at a Europa League game on Thursday - good enough for Europe but not the Irish League!

Smyth is one of the Additional Assistant Referees for the HJK Helsinki v Torino clash, part of a Northern Ireland delegation that includes Arnold Hunter, who will referee the Group B game.

The NIFL stated that a shortage of senior referees on Saturday led to the Fifa official taking charge of the high-profile fixture and in a new initiative the football body is giving clubs a right of reply regarding the men in the middle by forwarding assessments after matches.

The initiative will be trialled for two months throughout December and January but some observers are concerned at the prospect of clubs influencing the selection of referees for matches.

The Uefa Referee Convention states one of its aims is to 'establish a refereeing organisation within the Uefa member associations that is not controlled or influenced by other bodies such as governments, leagues or clubs.'

And with regard to the promotion and relegation of match appointments, the criteria states: 'The reasons for promotions/relegations and appointments/non-appointments must be kept confidential within the referees committee and refereeing department.'

NIFL managing director Andrew Johnston said: "I think there was a feeling Mervyn would benefit from a break from refereeing in Northern Ireland but I have only just been informed he is on Europa League duty this week. When there is an acceptance that refereeing performances have not been up to the required standard then there should be accountability.

"David Malcolm (NIFL Chief Refereeing Officer) is doing an excellent job with the resources he has and I think the feedback initiative is worth a try. Hopefully it is helpful while we recognise clubs cannot influence refereeing appointments. David's contribution in this area in an independent way is crucial."

A new referee must now be appointed for the Ballinamallard United v Glentoran League Cup quarter-final next Tuesday.

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