Is it time for ex-professional footballers to become referees?

After another weekend of shambolic decisions is it time the FA began actively seeking professional players to take up the role of match official when their playing career comes to an end?

This weekend was a sorry one for Premier League match officials. Both the referees in the middle and the linesman to the side of them had some horror show moments in various games.

There was the Fellaini handball and the Mirallas off-side goal at Goodison Park; the horror challenge on Massadio Haidara by Callum McManaman that was missed by both assistant ref and man in the middle Mark Halsey; while the game between Sunderland and Norwich also saw some odd decisions including the sending off of Mark Bunn which in fairness could have gone either way.

However it does not hide the fact that the Premier League fans and players are becoming continually upset with the standard of refereeing at the highest level with even our most revered official Howard Webb showcasing an oddity of inconsistencies this campaign.

Whether it is linesman not keeping up with the play or referees not being able to judge the difference between a malicious and reckless lunge such as McManaman’s or a genuine attempt to play the ball which is accentuated in impact by some trickster rolling around the floor as if hit by an imaginary sniper in the gantry.

So it leads me to ask this question…is it time to appoint former professional players as match officials?

It is a question commonly asked by pundits and fans alike and one fraught with difficulties. The first problem is, as always, money.

The fact is professional footballers at a Premier League level make far too much money to consider a career refereeing where the pay is far less generous. But that shouldn’t mean players who have played the majority of their careers in the Football League couldn’t get the job.

I mean obviously we don’t mean somebody like Roy Keane; obsessed with being the centre of attention he would be as bad as Mike Dean. Somebody like Clarke Carlisle however could be the perfect candidate.

Why not?

He is intelligent, still fit and has played the game so understands the smaller intricacies that irritate footballers and fans so much.

The football league is littered with such players whose careers are coming to an end and don’t have a wealth of money to sit back on for the rest of their careers.

They would certainly still potentially need other means of revenue but as it is well documented that many footballers struggle to move on from the beautiful game after their body says enough is enough officiating the game could give them the opportunity to stay involved if coaching and punditry did not catch their eye.

Looking online it is tough to find any top level referee who has also played at the highest level. Michael Oliver was a schoolboy at Newcastle United and Dick Jol, who officiated the 2001 Champions League Final, was a former player for NEC Nijmegen and KV Kortrijk.

The annoying thing is that such an option is not even being explored by the FA. In November last year Crewe Alexandra gaffer Steve Davis highlighted the idea of encouraging recently retired players to join ‘referee academies’ but the FA has not highlighted any such initiative.

It happens in Rugby Union. Former Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson a recent example of this transition and in Cricket it has occurred for years.

Some may question the potential bias of a referee who may have played against some of these players in the past and could therefore hold a grudge. That is certainly a good point but you would, as you do at the moment, have to trust that any ill-feeling between officials and clubs, players or coaching staff is buried when that final whistle blows.

But just imagine somebody like Clarke Carlisle, Kevin Kilbane or Damien Johnson out in the middle officiating at the highest level.

Not only do I believe the decisions would get better but the players would also have more respect for a man in the middle they may have one time gone shin-pad to boot with.

What are your thoughts? Should more ex-professional footballers be encouraged into refereeing?

image: © Ingy The Wingy

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch