Keeping Them Honest: If it’s April fools you need, look no further than soccer’s men in black

Keeping "Them" HonestWe wish we could tell you that FIFA has launched a campaign to clean up refereeing on a global scale and that the governing body will make an effort to improve training and weed-out and or eradicate those buffoons that constantly seem to derail high profile matches with idiotic calls. But that would only amount to an outlandish April Fools’ prank. So for now we are stuck with our our fools for all soccer seasons. Please enjoy the latest instalment of Keeping Them Honest:


Instead of simply suspending EPL referee Mark Halsey for his grave misjudgement in the now infamous Newcastle-Wigan clash, the English Football Association has decided to merely give Halsey a slap on the wrist by temporarily demoting him to League One action. You will remember, Halsey was the man who failed to send off, or even award a free kick, against Wigan’s Callum McManaman for his ‘horror’ tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara, leading to outcries of outrage from the soccer world.

However, the FA washed its hands of responsibility for the tackle and refused to take supplemental action against McManaman because that would amount to “re-refereeing.” On March 26th they announced he would take charge of a League One match between Coventry and Doncaster and would be demoted to fourth official status for Reading’s trip to Arsenal the following day. In the aftermath Haidara said the injury could have ended his career, but Newcastle has since announced that the suspected knee ligament damage was less serious than originally thought. Halsey received death threats over the incident while in an online column, former EPL referee Graham Poll suggested he should retire from soccer. The incident also helped RedCardTheRef set traffic record with nearly 1,000 visitors in a 24-hour period while over 200 soccer fans took our poll on the controversial call:

Do you agree with the English Football Association's decision not to punish Callum McManaman for his knee-high tackle on Newcastle's Massadio Haidara?

  • Yes (10%, 25 Votes)
  • No (90%, 223 Votes)

Total Voters: 248

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A string of controversial calls against Glasgow Celtic pushed Neil Lennon into a defiant tirade against the overall quality of refereeing in the Scottish Premier League. I think we all know how this ends:fine, suspension, favourable calls for Celtic in the future.

“We have been pretty concerned now for the past couple of months now about the abhorrent decisions I’ve seen, not just against my team, but in general in the Scottish game,” Lennon said. “So I am pretty concerned about the level of refereeing at the minute in this country.”

Lennon, who is already serving a three-game touchline ban blasted the officiating crew for a series of controversial calls in the Hoops 1-1 tie away to St. Mirren over the weekend. Lennon may have chosen to omit his manifesto from post-match discussion had referee Bobby Madden not signalled for a penalty kick during injury time with Lennon’s team up 1-0. The dubious call came after St. Mirren’s Esmael Goncalves was fouled by Celtic defender Emilio Izaguuirre outside the penalty area but Madden pointed to the spot.
“I have to be careful of what I say as I have a suspension hanging over my head but that was by far the most appalling refereeing performance I have seen this season by a long way,” Lennon fumed.


In its never-ending wisdom FIFA has decided to shortlist the referee who caused African Cup outrage to its list of match officials for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Tunisian referee Slim Jdidi was suspended for his decisions in last January’s African Cup semi-final match between Burkina Faso and Ghana – but strangely the governing body has decided to add Jdidi, to its preliminary list of 52 referees for next summer’s tournament.
Jdidi has not officiated any international matches since his suspension. All of the candidates will be required to attend refereeing seminars before the governing body narrows its list down to 30 ahead of the tournament.

Something must have gotten lost in translation when Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf , who now plays for Brazilian club Botofogo, was sent off for leaving the field the wrong way in the final minutes of his team’s 2-1 win over Madureira in the Rio de Janeiro state championship. Seedorf took his time heading towards his team’s bench so referee Philip Georg Bennet suggested he hurry up a little and take the closest exit on the near sideline. But when the former Netherlands international refused he was shown a yellow card. Seedorf could have just left it alone and exited the field in the location the referee requested, but in a show of defiance, Seedorf then decided to turn around and sprint towards his bench again leading to his ejection.

“Why can’t I go out the other way,” Seedorf asked after the game. “I didn’t understand anything.”

Bennet wrote in his match report that the Seedorf flaunted his request to leave the field and said he would leave the field anywhere he chose. Seedorf’s actions might give you the impression that this has happened before but this was only the second red card of the 37-year-old veteran’s career. He now faces a potential 12-month ban for disrespecting Bennet.


Nuts and Dolts

But those calls are just the tip of the iceberg. The Bleacher Report has come out with its video list of worst refereeing calls. Norwegian referee Cristina Pedersen received billing for her controversial calls in Canada’s Olympic semi-final loss to the United States where Pedersen’s infamous six second call and hand ball decisions scuttled the Canadian’s Olympic dreams. So too was Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir for his controversial sending off of NANI during Manchester United’s Champions League loss to Real Madrid last month.…..Manchester United midfielder Nani received a one-game suspension for his red card in his team’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid while manager Alex Ferguson – who smartly bit his tongue on this one - was fined $13,000 for failing to show up for the post game media conference…Meanwhile veteran American soccer reporter and columnist Paul Gardner is rightly questioning why former EPL referee Peter Walton has taken charge of the Professional Referees Association of the United States. The new organization was founded to improve the quality of officiating in America’s professional circuit including Major League Soccer, but Gardner – an Englishman himself – slams the decision to give the position to his fellow countryman.
“The job should have gone to an American,” Gardner writes. “But, above all, it should not have gone to an English referee. Simply because an English referee is bound to bring with him his English attitudes to refereeing, and to the game itself. Attitudes that are out of kilter with the modern game, attitudes that permit far too much physical, even violent, play.”…It’s been relatively calm before the Champions League storm but with EPL standout Mark Clattenburg being put in charge of Tuesday’s Champions League clash between Barcelona and Paris-Saint Germain and a whole host of other quarter-final action, I’m sure we will have some more juicy tidbits of referee news to report very soon.