Ref justice stems from refusal to talk: Zayed
Published 08/11/2011 | 05:00
SLIGO Rovers enjoyed a glorious homecoming last night, but the wider League of Ireland community united in sympathy for Shelbourne's Barry Clancy as the debate over refereeing standards rumbled on in the wake of Sunday's FAI Cup final.
Richie Winter's decision to send off Clancy for a second yellow -- deeming that the Shels winger had dived in the box with his team leading at the Aviva Stadium -- has been widely condemned.
And, in a year where refereeing errors have hogged the headlines, PFAI union chief Stephen McGuinness has called for an open forum between players and officials to smooth over communication issues.
McGuinness believes that frustration among his members stems not just from poor decisions, but also from the inability to discuss controversial calls with the men in the middle.
The PFAI actually have an award for the Referee of the Year, and the Dubliner says it is no coincidence that the final three -- Paul Tuite, Neil Doyle and Alan Kelly -- are all regarded as reasonably approachable.
"I can only go from my career when we had guys like John McDermott and Paul McKeon, who I thought at times refereed with a smile on their face," said McGuinness. "I know from speaking to the players that they feel the relationship that had been there is gone.
"I'd like to see referees come out after games and be able to talk and be interviewed. I don't know if it's coming from the hierarchy, from UEFA or the top brass here, but it seems to be that you can't speak to people.
"Just an hour before the kick-off on Sunday, I got a message from the chairman of the referees' association, Pat Whelan. We made an application a month ago to set up a referees course for players, and it would create a better relationship.
"And it seems like we're going to get one set up in January. I hope the top referees will come so we can develop a better understanding.
"Because I see that all the newspapers after the cup final were about the referee -- when it should be about the players and the event."
Derry striker Eamon Zayed chose his words carefully, yet admitted a particular frustration with the officials this season.
"The decision on Sunday ruined the game as a spectacle," he said.
"I understand that it's tough to referee at times."
"But I think this year, the standard hasn't been too great. There's times before games, you'd look at who is refereeing and you're like, 'Aw, Jaysus, not him again' -- without naming names, but that's how I feel."
Zayed echoed McGuinness' comments on the difficulty when it comes to chatting with refs.
"There are a couple of them you can speak to but, no, the majority of them, you can't say a word," he continued.
"They won't give you an answer. They'll just tell you to walk on. It really is frustrating when they do that.
"It would make it easier if you got some sort of answer. Possibly you mightn't agree, but at least you'll know why he made the decision. I don't want to hammer referees. But I haven't been happy at all this year with the standard of refereeing."
Zayed would like to see more ex-players go into refereeing and McGuinness revealed that it is being considered by fringe players at clubs around the country. Indeed, experienced League of Ireland goalkeeper Aaron Shanahan is going down that route at present.
"I don't want to go on about it, but the decision on Sunday when Clancy got slightly touched, he's a small guy, and he probably just went down from being touched slightly," said Zayed,
"Ex-players might understand that little bit better.
"The way I saw it -- it wasn't a penalty, but it wasn't a sending off either."