Belfast Telegraph

Comment: Gary Hamilton's right, it's time to blow the whistle on Irish League's refereeing inconsistency

By Billy Weir

A new year but the same old problem - refereeing inconsistency.

Earlier in the season we had Linfield boss David Healy and the club demanding things improve and the powers-that-be have a look at the state of officiating, but not much seems to have happened since then.

Healy is not a lone voice in the wilderness, Gary Hamilton joining in on the chorus for change having watched his Glenavon side miss out on two potential match-turning penalties during Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Ballymena United.

To his credit, he admitted that the Sky Blues deserved to win on their second-half showing, but with the game locked at 1-1 the Lurgan side had two strong shouts turned down by referee Raymond Hetheringon.

The official had already awarded the visitors a penalty for a handball right at the start, but - and I have watched it back - looked to have rejected an even stronger call for another when Joel Cooper was floored by Tony Kane in the box.

To rub salt in the wounds, Cooper was booked for diving, while another shout for a handball was, in my opinion, not as strong, but an altercation between Kofi Balmer and Andrew Mitchell should have led to a yellow card apiece, which would have been a second for the young United defender who was booked for the first-minute penalty.

It had Hamilton tearing his hair out.

"We look at the games this season and the four defeats we've had, in the Linfield game there's a foul on our defender for the goal and we should have a blatant penalty kick as TV showed," he said.

"In the Crusaders game, Colin Coates should have been sent off.

"Kofi Balmer was booked for the penalty and he and Andrew Mitchell get involved and grab each other - two yellow cards - so Kofi Balmer should get red-carded and, like the Coates situation, it doesn't get dealt with because the player is on a yellow card, and because we've had a penalty kick we don't get more penalty kicks.

"I don't want any player sent off but if people are going to referee the game right, then it's a yellow card for two players getting on like that. I came on at Glentoran the other week against Kym Nelson and did exactly the same and the two of us got a yellow card.

"I don't understand why it's not the same across the board. When you are a referee you have your decision and what way it should be dealt with, then it has to be like that all the time. It can't change whenever it suits yourself.

"It sounds like sour grapes all the time, but the reality is in our four defeats this year the only one where there has been no influence from a referee was at Coleraine, and they battered us."

It's hard to argue, and let's hope officialdom takes note and doesn't hammer him for his opinions. Gary knows the game inside out, he'll take defeats on the chin and, yes, officials can have an off-day just like any player. But, unlike the player, they never seem to lose their place.

The one hope we all have for the New Year is for better refereeing. I also hope for a saxophone-playing unicorn and for Kylie Minogue to come to her senses and answer my calls, but I have more hope on those two than the first.

Belfast Telegraph


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