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Howard Webb - who took charge of the last World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spaid - is heading to Brazil, but there won't be any Irish officials at the tournament. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Howard Webb - who took charge of the last World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spaid - is heading to Brazil, but there won't be any Irish officials at the tournament. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Howard Webb - who took charge of the last World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spaid - is heading to Brazil, but there won't be any Irish officials at the tournament. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It's the greatest show on Earth. And we won't be there. Our team didn't qualify, and another disappointment is that we have again lost out on representation as far as referees and assistant referees are concerned.

For this year's tournament, the powers that be at FIFA decided that they would whittle down the contenders to teams of 25 (a referee and two assistants) from various countries in as far as was possible.

They also decided that they would bring along eight referees and eight assistant referees as 'support' – reserves to you and me – in case there were any last-minute dropouts or illnesses. It was made clear to the selected match officials that should any one of the team of three fail a fitness test in the build up to this week's kick off, all three would be sent home and replaced by some of the 'support' group. So one weak spot in the group would exact the ultimate punishment. Who said refereeing wasn't pressurised?

It can be argued that in the grander scheme of things we are only minnows. However there are other countries who have less form in this area yet are well represented in Brazil.

Take New Zealand for example, a country with a similar size population and, like Ireland, soccer is not the number one sport. However, how many players from New Zealand have played in one of the world's great leagues, the English Premier Leagues? Or when did New Zealand last get to the quarter-final of a World Cup?

Yet New Zealand have a referee, Peter O'Leary, and an assistant referee, Jan Hendrik Hintz, in the pool of 25. In addition, New Zealand also have an assistant referee, Mark Rule, on the reserve panel. As it happens, there's also an assistant referee from Tahiti.

There is no mystery behind our absence from this World Cup. Our team simply weren't good enough to qualify, and in my opinion, our match officials are not up to the standard required for such a big competition. We lack the infrastructure and training to produce match officials for the highest level of football.

It could also be argued that our league isn't strong enough and that our referees need to be exposed to thousands of supporters on a regular basis and not the hundreds that typically frequent League of Ireland games.

Back in the days of John Carpenter, who was regarded as one of the best referees ever to come out of this country, there was, in my opinion, more dedication, more commitment, and more determination to climb the ladder and compete with the best in Europe and the world. I know, I was there.

We are also small in relation to other associations and therefore lack the political power of others within UEFA to influence the powers-that-be and as a consequence miss out on the big occasions.

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Our referees rarely get any of the so-called big games in the UEFA Champions League or the Europa league. Since our teams who qualify for these competitions invariably get knocked out in the early stages our referees, you would think, would be ideally positioned to handle games since we could be considered neutral. This doesn't happen.

A root and branch review of referee training and standards in Ireland needs to be undertaken to remedy this sorry situation. We're not being fair to our referees, our association or our country.

Yes, we have match officials going out to Europe during the season but the games are definitely in the lower category of difficulty, and prestige.

We had referees at the highest level in the past. We need to start working hard to have them there again in the future.

Errol Sweeney is a former League of Ireland and South African Premier League referee


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