Not everyone always saw the
funny side of Paul Gascoigne's humour. At a Rangers v Hibs match at Ibrox
on Saturday December 30th 1995 immediately after missing a sitter he found
the ref's yellow card on the pitch. He showed it to himself for the miss
and then jokingly held it up to the ref before returning it to him. Ref
Dougie Smith didn't see the funny side of it and used the card for real and booked Gascoigne!
Not all referees suffer from a humour
by-pass, although perhaps it takes a guilty conscience to bring out the
humour. When playing for Birmingham at Newcastle on Saturday August 30th
2003 hard-man Robbie Savage was poll-axed when hit by an arm in his face.
A red card was shown but only in jest as referee Matt Messias gave to card
to Alan Shearer to show to him - yes it was the referee who done it! The
ref put his arm up to signal a free kick just as Savage was running by and
down he went proving that he was more of a wuss than a man of steel.
********* On Saturday August 31st 1996
Wendy Toms became the first woman to referee a senior match in England
when taking charge of the Conference match between Woking and Telford
United. After 14 minutes Woking's Andy Ellis became the first player to be
booked at that level by a woman, for dissent. 'It's an honour', he said!
On Monday September 13th 1999
she was part of the first all-female trio to officiate at a senior match -
Kidderminster Harriers v Nuneaton Borough in the Conference - assistant
refs were Janie Frampton and Amy Rayner.
The highlight of her career
was being the assistant referee at the Worthington Cup final between
Leicester City and Tranmere Rovers in February 2000. Referee Alan Wilkie
had the sad distinction of being stretchered off at Wembley in that match, suffering a
pulled calf muscle in the 57th minute.
The honour of being the first woman
to referee a Football League match went to Amy Fearn in the Coventry City
v Nottingham Forest Championship match played on Tuesday February 9th
2010. With 20 minutes remaining referee Tony Bates was forced to leave the
field with a calf strain, being replaced by Amy for the remaining minutes
of the match.
Although women officials
only became part of the senior game in the 1990's they had been part of
the lower levels of the game for many years. Mrs Pat Dunn was the first
woman to referee an all-male match sanctioned by the FA when taking charge
of an East Lulworth v Freewheelers match in Dorset in 1976. In October
1981 Elizabeth Forsdick became the first woman official in an FA Cup tie
when running the line at the the Third Qualifying Round tie between
Burgess Hill Town and Carshalton Athletic. On Saturday November 9th
2013 Amy Fearn became the first woman to referee an FA Cup tie in the
competition proper when booking four players in Dover Athletic's victory
at Corby Town in a First Round tie.
I suppose it had to happen
(1) - a referee scoring a winning goal. On Saturday November 9th 1968 Barrow
entertained Plymouth Argyle in a Third Division match at Holker Street.
Ref Ivan Robinson tried to jump out of the way of a Barrow cross but the
ball hit his heel and deflected past Plymouth keeper Pat Dunne into the
net. He had to signal a goal - the only one of the match!
I suppose it had to happen
(2) - add together officials of the female variety, a boring match
and YouTube and the result is predictable. Probably the first inevitable
offering to go 'viral' was that of Serbian assistant ref Aleksandra
Milojevic. The clip of her running the line in a match between Novi Pazar
and Mapredak had over one million views in its first first seven days in
I can't believe this one did happen,
especially in a major league! On January 14th 2018 in a French Ligue 1
match between Nantes and Paris Germain referee Tony Chapron ended up on
the ground after an accidental collision with Nantes defender Diego
Carlos. The ref then kicked the player and sent him off after giving him a
second yellow card! The referee was banned for six months, half suspended,
and the player had his second yellow card rescinded.
It's rare for a referee to miss
arriving at the scheduled kick-off time but on one occasion when that
happened it resulted in a unique match in the Football League -
The Match of 3 Halves.
Back in 1996 the menfolk of
the Exeter Sunday League were a tad surprised when a referee joined the
after-match showers with them. The refs' name was Janet Fewings!
None too pleased with the situation were the local WAGS and the men in
suits from the Devon FA. Despite her protests at the prudish attitudes
being shown and the lack of separate facilities she was charged with
bringing the game into disrepute and it wasn't long before her Sundays
lacked a footballing element.
Jimmy Hill seems to be football's
been there, done that sort of guy. On Saturday September 16th 1972 at the
Arsenal v Liverpool fixture football personality Hill stepped in,
superman-like, to prevent the match being abandoned when he took over as a
substitute linesman. The original linesman, Dennis Drewitt, suffered torn
knee ligaments in the first half and was unable to continue. Those were
the days before we had extra officials at each game and an announcement
was made to the crowd appealing for a qualified referee to take over on
the line. Up stepped Jimmy Hill who had been at the match as a spectator
and the day was saved.
Just as players have to suffer the
scrutiny of their performances so do referees and their is one person in
particular who often hits the headlines with his comments on referees -
In March 2008 Manchester United were
beaten at Portsmouth in the FA Cup and Sir Alex criticised ref Martin
Atkinson for not awarding United a penalty. 'Managers get sacked
because of things like that and he's going to referee a game next week.
That performance should not be accepted by our game.' Ferguson was
charge with improper conduct and found not guilty.
Ref Alan Wiley was on the receiving
end of Ferguson's tongue after a 2-2 Premier League draw with Sunderland
at Old Trafford in October 2009. 'You see referees abroad who are as
fit as butcher's dogs. We have some who are fit. He wasn't fit. He was
taking 30 seconds to book a player. He was needing a rest. It was
ridiculous.' Again a charge of improper conduct - this time found
guilty and suffered a £20,000 fine and two-match touchline ban.
In March 2011 after a League defeat
at Stamford Bridge Martin Atkinson was again on the receiving end of
Ferguson's criticism. 'You want a fair referee. You want a strong
referee anyway and we didn't get that. When I saw who was refereeing I
feared the worst.' Another improper conduct charge, another guilty
verdict, this time a £30,000 fine and a five-match touchline ban.
While most condemned Sir Alex's
remarks about Alan Wiley no-one disagreed with the principle that the
officials need to be fit. Anyone who watches all four officials warm up
before a senior match will realise that they take fitness as seriously as
the players do. They need to - a recent investigation found that
professional referees travel an average of over 8 miles a match, some at
walking pace but more often full sprinting.
Stories about Dean Windass often
seemed to revolve around referees and suspensions. Back in January 2006 he
had words with match referee Darren Drysdale in the Valley Parade car park
after the 3-3 League 1 draw between Bradford City and Brentford. Windass
claimed the words amount to a tongue-in-cheek joke while Drysdale claimed
that he was verbally abused. Windass received a five-match ban for
improper conduct. Worse came his way in 1997 when referee Stuart Dougal
sent him off three times when playing for Aberdeen in a SPL match against
Dundee United at Tannadice.
Two bookings (after just 22 minutes) saw him shown the
first red card with the second being for dissent when he made his
displeasure known to the ref. On his way to the tunnel he
took his frustrations out on a totally innocent corner flag for which he was sent off for
the third time. That was a total of 22 penalty points for which he
received a 6-match ban plus a club fine of 2 weeks' wages.
What did we do before we
had the email inbox humour to look
forward to? Shortly after a poor decision by Urs Meier in England's defeat
against Portugal in Euro 2004 Herr Meier's image was seemingly on every
computer in the country. Sadly some newspapers took it too far and
published the Swiss ref's contact details forcing into hiding from angry
The same thing happened at
Euro 2008 but this
time it was English ref Howard Webb who was on the receiving end. He
awarded co-hosts Austria a late penalty which allowed them to draw 1-1
with Poland. That saw him the butt of computer humour but again it went
OTT with even Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk seeming to wish him harm.
Within hours websites were listing the home address, telephone number and
works email details of Howard Webb of Rotherham - but it was not even the
right man and a completely different Howard Webb of Rotherham ended up
needing police protection!
Fast forwarding to the 2010 World
Cup Finals the same might have
been expected following that 'mile-over-the-line' goal from Frank Lampard
against Germany. But Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda escaped the worst
of the criticism - most of that seemed to be directed to Sepp Blatter and
his dismissive rejection of using goal-line technology. And who would want
to remember anything about England's clueless contribution to the
tournament? But there was humour - thanks to the Specsavers advertising
idea behind using red and yellow cards to indicate dismissals and bookings
was that of Englishman Ken Aston. Having previously refereed at the
highest level he was in charge of referees at the 1966 World Cup
England. The infamous sending off of Antonio Rattin in the quarter-final
between Argentina and England, when Aston had to go on to the playing area to
remonstrate with the player to leave the pitch, made him think that their
had to be a better system of allowing a referee to make his intentions
clearer to a player who might not speak the same language. As he drove
away from the stadium the solution came to him - "As I drove down Kensington High Street, the traffic light turned red. I thought, 'Yellow, take it easy; red, stop, you're off'."
So the red card and
yellow cards were introduced to allow both players and fans to clearly understand when
players had been dismissed or booked.
Ken Aston in his refereeing days.
The cards were first used in
the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico. The first player in the Football
League to see red was David Wagstaff, playing for Blackburn Rovers at
Orient on Saturday October 2nd 1976. Later that afternoon George Best,
playing for Fulham at Southampton, was also red-carded.
For a period between the
1980/81 and 1987/88 season the use of red and yellow cards was suspended
in the Football League.
I think that it would be fair to say that referees never always get it
right but back in 2000 Ref Rob Harris got it very wrong. On Saturday
January 8th 2000 a Fourth Round FA Cup tie between Tranmere Rovers and
Sunderland at Prenton Park had a lively last few seconds. Tranmere's Clint
Hall was sent off in injury time for a second bookable offence but during
the ensuing on-pitch confrontation a Tranmere sub, Stephen Frail, was sent
on unnoticed by the officials. Until the error was noticed - resulting in
another confrontation - Tranmere played with a full team, much to the
displeasure of Sunderland who lost the match 1-0. Sunderland manager Peter
Reid said 'It was like Billy Smart's circus out there. I don't like
talking about officials instead of football - but someone has made a major
error.' The Wearsiders lost an appeal to have the match replayed but
for the first time match officials were brought before an FA Commission to
examine their actions. Ref Harris, assistant ref Tony Green and fourth
official David Unsworth were all said to have 'less than proficiently
applied the laws of the game' with Harris being given a ban as a
On Saturday May 23rd 2009 Clive
Oliver refereed the League 2 play off final at Wembley between Gillingham
and Shrewsbury Town. The following day his son Michael refereed the League
1 play off match at Wembley between Millwall and Scunthorpe United. At the
Rotherham United v Port Vale Carling Cup First Round match on Tuesday 23rd
August 2005 the two had become the first father and son to officiate
together in a senior match in England.
One of the officials found that he
had a family connection when he ran the line at a Littlewoods Cup fixture
at Brighton in 1986 - and it shouldn't have happened! Read more -
Match officials, like
players, suffer their share of injuries with one of the most unusual being
suffered by our friend Wendy Toms. Due to run the line at the Aston Villa
v Liverpool Premier League match in October 1999 after clipping on her
radio earpiece rather than then listening to ref Rob Harris she instead
heard piercing feedback which affected her balance. Medical attention was
needed and she missed the match.
When Peterborough North End kicked
off their Sunday League match against Royal Mail in January 2005 about the
only media coverage they could have expected would have been the result in
the local paper. Instead they received national coverage. The reason? Well Andy Wain wasn't having a good week. When a Peterborough NE player made an
uncomplimentary comment to him Wain lost his temper, eyeballing the
startled goalkeeper. The problem was that Andy Wain wasn't a opposition
player - he was the referee! The referee in him took over .... and he sent
himself off! To make matters even worse because their was no other
official to take over, he also had to abandon the match. "It was
totally unprofessional. If a player did that I would send him off, so I
had to go" he later said. The Northants FA banned
him for 35 days and fined him £50.
A Spanish Third Division
match between Jumilla and Puente Tocinos played on Sunday September 6th
2009 was interrupted during the second half when there was an announcement
over the PA system in which local police requested the presence of the
owner of an Audi A4 car which had been vandalised in the car park. It
belonged to referee Madrigal Soria who sprinted off the pitch. The match
was held up for five minutes while the ref sorted matters out with the
"Referees should be
wired up to a couple of electrodes and they should be allowed to make
three mistakes before you run 50,000 volts through their genitals."
Aston Villa manager John
Gregory in October 1999, at a guess after a refereeing decision he
It's easy to take the
Michael out of the officials but the reality is that they are as important
to the game as the players. And they too make their sacrifices.
were tragic scenes at York City's Bootham Crescent ground
on the evening of Monday May 5th 1969 at York's final Fourth Division
match of the season, against Halifax Town. Referee Roy Harper collapsed
shortly after kick off and died of a heart attack. The match was completed
and I have to say that I find it both amazing and shocking that the match
wasn't abandoned out of respect. Sadly Roots Hall was the scene of
the next tragedy involving a League referee. On Monday
April 16th 2001 the Division 3 match between Southend United and Mansfield
Town was abandoned shortly before half-time when referee Mike North collapsed in the centre circle and died of a heart attack.
..an abandoned match allowed a player to play for both sides in the same
Full details of this and other unusual abandonments click on...