Belfast Telegraph

It's Ref Justice 2 - and the sequel is just as bad as the first

Linfield manager David Healy
Linfield manager David Healy

By Billy Weir

I have the funniest feeling I have been here before - referees being blasted by managers in the Irish League.

Last week it was Ronnie McFall demanding better. This week it was just about everybody else as, far from chucking a dishcloth on the smouldering chip pan of discontent, the sparks were flying.

Again it wasn't just the thorny issue of mistakes, as I raised last week there seems to be a growing divide between the officials and those on the pitch and in the dug-out.

It was picked up by Linfield boss David Healy, whose side, by his own admission, deserved nothing against Coleraine, but weren't helped by a shocking decision from Ian McNabb when Andy Waterworth was flattened from behind in the box by goalkeeper Chris Johns.

"We know all these officials by name and there has to be a courtesy there, but there's a wee bit of an arrogance with these guys, which frustrates the life out of myself, and I know they frustrate the life out of other managers as well," said Healy.

"But I want to be clear, we did not lose the game because of the officials, nor did we draw the game against Warrenpoint last week because of the officials.

"However, there has to be a realisation that this isn't a Mickey Mouse kickabout on a Saturday where you can come and have a laugh with your mates refereeing the game.

"The arrogance at times is beyond belief. It's a lot to do with communication. There's got to be a bit of give and take, there has to be respect from myself, the other managers and benches. It shouldn't be an us and them scenario, but it seems like that."

Institute manager Paddy McLaughlin also vented his spleen, this time of a penalty that was given when Dean Curry was adjudged by Keith Kennedy to have taken down Paul McElroy, when there looked to be minimal, if any, contact.

"How did the referee make that decision? We have watched it back on video and it's nearly comical," fumed McLaughlin.

"Everyone was laughing at Raheem Sterling during the week in the Champions League but it's definitely not a laughing matter when it goes against you.

"It is something that has to be looked at because this can't keep happening."

I have, and it was, and there was yet more to come from Glenavon manager Gary Hamilton, clearly frustrated by a number of decisions not given by Lee Tavinder in their game against Warrenpoint Town.

"When you want to talk to them, they are very rarely wrong in their opinion or say they are wrong in any decision," he claimed.

"I can hold my hand up if I've got something wrong. It's like picking a team on a Saturday, sometimes you pick the wrong team and you hold your hands up and say 'I got that wrong', but unfortunately when you are told something is 100 per cent right and you're threatened to be sent to the stand, there isn't much hope."

Healy picked up on that latter point, when he added: "You can't speak to these guys after games, they just palm you off and then they laugh at you.

"This is serious business. This is Coleraine, Linfield, Glentoran, whoever it is trying their utmost to earn an extra corn by getting into European football, win trophies and be successful. I don't think these guys realise that.

"Every time you pick up a paper or watch highlights there is always a controversial decision and managers left frustrated by it."

I am not sure what the solution is but there has to be more than silence from the powers-that-be.

Playing standards are improving, with more teams targeting more full-time football, and media coverage has never been better, but there is one area of the game that appears to be standing still, and sending officials off to Malta, Estonia or wherever is just a nice wee trip and not helping to get to the nub of the problem.

There needs to be something tangible from officialdom, a statement to answer these concerns, or the mumbling discontent will snowball into a roar.

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