Saturday’s early Premier League clash between Sunderland and Liverpool at the Stadium of Light was by no means a classic, but it did raise a couple of interesting points about refereeing.
And before I begin, I would like to say that I am not the type of football fan who constantly bashes the arbitrating in the top flight.
Indeed, I really dislike seeing the players barrage the refs with abuse following an unfavourable decision with nary a yellow card to be seen, especially compared to the respect afforded to the officials in rugby union.
No, the Wearsiders’ narrow defeat merely offers an opportunity to put forward two areas where I feel good refereeing can really benefit the game.
Having already mentioned rugby, it also offers an example of how football could be improved and that is by more closely emulating its rules on advantage.
Liverpool’s Lazar Markovic scored the game’s only goal after the referee allowed play to continue following a foul on teammate Fabio Borini (whose goals helped the Black Cats stay up last season) and it happened on more than one occasion.
There is no reason why referees cannot allow the game to develop for a few seconds before calling it back for a free-kick.
The length of time that advantage is played in rugby with its phases would be impractical in football, but advantage being allowed as a matter of course before play is stopped would improve the flow of games and discourage cynical fouls in many cases.
There is another simple improvement which I think could help get rid of diving in the game. That is not to say that the players themselves are not responsible for cheating when they commit blatant dives.
Often in commentary, you hear the phrase, ‘there’s contact and he’s entitled to go down’. Some would say that isn’t an excuse and it’s still diving.
But I think referees are sometimes reluctant to give free-kicks or penalties if the player doesn’t go down.
This shouldn’t be the case; if a player is impeded then it is a foul, although of course he should be entitled to play advantage.
And while I’m on a roll, why not copy rugby again and pause the clock when there is a stoppage, meaning that when 90 minutes areup, it’s all over. At the very least it would stop Jose Mourinho blaming the ball boys when Chelsea lose.
• For a final thought – in Sport Talk’s first foray away from football so far – here’s snooker.
The World Championships is clearly the big one and I tend to go down to Sheffield most years to watch, but there’s something special about the Masters with the one-table format and it being a shoot-out between the top 16.
This year’s is already building into a classic with some tight games and big names going out.