Bristol Rovers' Chairman to give his views to The Football League...

STEVE Hamer insists The Football League should take more care to ensure games like local derbies and promotion battles are controlled by experienced referees.

It is a point the Bristol Rovers chairman intends to make when meeting his counterparts from around the country at this summer’s conference of Football League chairmen.

Pirates boss Darrell Clarke was left “pig-sick” by decisions, including two penalty awards, he felt went against his side during last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at Plymouth Argyle.

The man with the whistle was John Brooks, from Leicestershire, in only his second season as a Football League referee, experience Hamer believes was insufficient for what was always going to be a volatile atmosphere.

Rather than aim criticism directly at Brooks, Steve told me the system was at fault in not paying sufficient attention to refereeing appointments.

He said: “It was a cracking game, with two teams really committed to getting a result, but I think the occasion and near full-house got to the referee.

“If not a Championship official, the match should have been allocated to an experienced one from the lower divisions of at least four or five years standing.

“My view is that there should be a probationary period for new officials during which they cut their teeth at the smaller clubs and grounds.

“I have been around long enough not to blame results on penalties which are given or turned down. But I will be raising this matter at the Chairman’s Conference because it cannot be in the best interests of the game.”

Apart from what they viewed as soft penalties, Rovers felt Brooks should have sent off Plymouth match winner Graham Carey for kicking the ball away to delay play restarting, having already been booked.

But Hamer prefers to concentrate on the wider issue. “If referees new to The Football League list had two or three years officiating at clubs like Newport County, Morecambe, Crawley Town and others, it would give them an opportunity to get a feel of it,” he said. “You don’t pass your driving test at 17 and immediately climb on board a Ferrari. Yet inexperienced referees are being handed games of huge importance.

“There is an argument that how can they be expected to learn without big matches. But I think they ould benefit as much as anyone through being introduced to them more gradually.

“Local derbies tend to be humdingers, as do games with promotion and relegation at stake. They have to be allocated experienced officials.

“The Football League needs to wake up to the fact that certain fixtures have a sensitivity that does not make them appropriate for referees just making their way in the game.

“Not everyone will agree with me, but I know I am not alone in holding this view. It is not a bellyache over what happened at Plymouth, but a genuine concern.

“If I had to use one word to describe the referee last weekend it would be ‘unreliable’ and I think that was due to his inexperience. The atmosphere took him by surprise.”

Brooks has actually taken charge of three Championship matches this season, at Reading, Sunderland and Ipswich. In all, he had controlled 62 Football League games going into this weekend’s fixtures – 34 in League One and 25 in League Two.


This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.