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Comment: You're once, twice, three times... going on about referees

By Billy Weir

Last week I vowed that I wouldn't bang on again about referees, but once more they seemed to dominate proceedings.

First though I, brace yourself, am going to praise an official. No, really.

Andrew Davey made the brave decision to overrule his assistant, Stephen Bell, who had initially flagged that Linfield striker Andy Waterworth had scored from an offside position.

Much to the confusion of the Institute players, Mr Davey waved away the flag and pointed to the centre spot, ruling that the ball had last come off a defender.

It was a ballsy decision. I have watched it a dozen times and couldn't swear if it came off Caoimhin Bonner or Jimmy Callacher, but in fairness to the ref he had the courage of his convictions to call it.

Elsewhere things were a tad mixed. Over at Seaview, Rhys Marshall looked to be lucky to stay on the pitch when he raised his hands in a spot of handbags with Michael Carvill, and ref Tim Marshall yellow-carded them both.

Up at Coleraine, Eoin Bradley's one-man campaign to have more send-offs than Frank Sinatra took another step when some industrial mutterings as he stomped off at the break earned him a red card from Evan Boyce.

And at Ballymena, the game I was covering against Cliftonville, Arnold Hunter was booed off at half and full-time, both sets of fans less than impressed with his decisions, the Sky Blues' opening goal having more than a hint of offside, while Johnny Addis' 'goal' was disallowed for an infringement that for the life of me I can't see.

Having heard several other managers' views on the state of refereeing, I took the chance to quiz David Jeffrey on what he thought.

"The first thing is that I've got to put on record as I've done again and again that I wouldn't be a referee or an official for all the tea in China. It is the most thankless task there has ever been," he said.

"The second thing is, as in life, if you can build good, sound relationships. In any walk of life it is important that good relationships are established and that is established by way of communication. All we are crying out for is consistency. And that's the issue. That's the challenge our officials need to face.

"I appreciate that it's important that opinion, and an honest opinion, is given, but if you take a step back, and I have had the luxury of that when I took time out from management, to be able to look at the game, not just from a player's point of view, or a manager's, or a coach's, or a director's or a supporter's, but actually as an official's perspective.

"And if we can actually, in a combined, holistic way, try to help them. For example, I asked Arnold (Hunter) about a couple of issues in the game and I couldn't understand why he gave them and the explanation he gave me was very fair and it was information I wasn't aware of.

"I wouldn't have know that if I hadn't taken the time to go and ask him and he was very courteous and very cordial and explained the whole thing to me, so I think if we seek to build an open and transparent working relationship, then it's in the best interests of everybody.

"But to me it's very simple. There's maybe something that the Referees' Association, the IFA and NIFL can do, but, to me, while you can have events where people come together, it's about making the effort yourself.

"And there are days when I don't want to speak to the referee because I'm that blooming angry and enraged, and there are other days when you are more open to it. But if you can start to build relationships with people, then that's maybe a simple and naive way, but it's the only real way of going forward."

We can but hope, and I promise I won't be talking about referees next week. Or maybe not...

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